The American Le Mans Series is visiting one of North America’s fastest tracks this weekend for the Orion Energy Systems 245 at Road America. Judging by qualifying, there will be intense competition in four of the five classes.
P1 is not one of those classes. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing is by far the fastest car in the class, more than two seconds ahead of the Dyson Racing Lola. However, there is always a chance for an epic finish like last year’s where Muscle Milk lost time in the pits and then charged back, losing to Dyson by the smallest margin in ALMS history.
Lucas Luhr qualified the Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03c first with a lap of 1:51.46 despite only getting one good lap out of the session. He and co-driver Klaus Graf have nothing to worry about but traffic tomorrow, and getting the maximum enjoyment out of the track’ a driver’s favorite.
“The Muscle Milk HPD car was good today and ran perfect like always,” Luhr said in a team press release. “We struggled a little bit with the temperature difference between yesterday and today as it took a little more time to get our tires up to temperature but in the end it worked out fine.
“It’s always great fun to drive around here at Road America especially in qualifying if there is no traffic. It’s a unique track and I think it’s one of the best tracks in the world.”
In P2, Marino Franchitti in the #552 Level 5 HPD ARX-03b took the pole by .82 seconds from the similar Extreme Speeds Motorsports entry driven by Guy Cosmo, who qualified just .17 seconds ahead of Simon Pagenaud in the second Level 5 car, who was only .29 seconds ahead of Johannes Van Overbeeck in the second ESM machine.
“Our competition was here testing Wednesday or Tuesday, so we were a bit behind when we arrived,’ Marion told ALMS.com. “But the engineering staff stayed really late last night. They came up
with some genius for us. I lost the dash for the whole qualifying, so I lost the predictor and had no idea how fast I was going, so I just drove as hard as I could and it was good for pole.”
Level 5 owner Scott Tucker will be sharing the #551 with Franchitti during the race, so likely the car will not be as quick as the #552 with Pagenaud and his co-driver Ricardo Gonzalez. The battle between the #551 and the two ESM cars should be tremendous.
ALMS GTE never fails to offer up amazing amounts of excitement. Road America could be even better than usual.
As expected, the big V8s of the SRT Vipers and Corvette Racing ZR1s dominated the day. What wasn’t expected was the Team West/ AJR/ Boardwalk Ferrari would suddenly find its way into the top three.
Jonathan Bomarito in the #93 SRT Viper captured the pole. He spoke with ALMS.com after the session.
“Really great day for us today. Team is doing a great job. The SRT team worked really hard overnight. We made quite a few changes from last practice to today. We knew it would be a lot cooler than yesterday. We really nailed it and it showed today. We’re going to have a great car for tomorrow. As a group, we really feel prepared for tomorrow’s race.”
Bomarito captured the pole with a lap of 2:03.41, eight-tenths faster than Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette. Leh Keen put the West/AJR Ferrari 458 third, a mere six-hundredths of a second slower than Garcia.
It gets better. Olly Gavin in the #4 Corvette qualified only one-hundredth behind Keen; Marco Holzer in the #48 Miller Porsche was only seven-hundredths behind Gavin, and Dominik Farnbacher in the #91 Viper, only .8 seconds behind that.
Next came a monumental gap of .18 seconds to the #55 BMW-RLL Z4. A hundredth of a second separated the next two cars, the #06 Core Porsche and the #56 BMW. That’s a tight field, folks—0.42 seconds cover second through eighth places on the grid.
(Unfortunateley for West/AJR, the car failed the post-race stall test and will have to start from the back of the grid.)
PC was more of the same. Colin Braun took the pole with a lap of 1:57.63, ahead of RS’s Bruno Junqueira and Performance Tech’s Tristan Nunez, with 0.77 seconds covering the top five cars in the class.
Finally, GTC managed to fit its top five qualifiers into 0.91 seconds. Spencer Pumpelly took the pole in the #45 Flying Lizards Porsche, ahead of Sean Edwards of NGT-Momo and Jan Heylen of JDX Racing.
Surprisingly points leader Jerome Bleekemolen couldn’t get the AJR Porsche to perform to his liking, qualifying sixth—still only 1.06 off the pace, and only .06 ahead of Porsche ace Andy Lally in the Dempsey-Del Piero machine. With those two fighting to the front, and having to get though so many fast cars to get there, GTC promises to offer some thrills on race day.
The American Le Mans Series Orion Energy Systems 245 at Road America will be televised live on ABC, Sunday Aug. 11 starting at 3 p.m. EDT. Don’t miss it.