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de Ferran Tops Qualifying At Laguna Seca

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 9 2009

almsBy Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In his final qualifying session behind the wheel, Gil de Ferran was anything but retiring. The driver of the XM Radio Acura ARX-02a won the pole at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway by edging Acura driver David Brabham. In a sweep for the Honda brand, Luis Diaz claimed the pole in the LMP2 category with a time surprisingly close to the LMP1 class pole winner.

“It feels great right now,” said de Ferran, who announced his retirement from driving to concentrate on team owner duties midway in the American Le Mans Series season . “I’ve always enjoyed qualifying. All you have to worry about is going fast.”

The task on Saturday will be a bit more worrisome. To claim the championship in LMP1, de Ferran Motorsports, including co-driver Simon Pagenaud, must finish first or second in the four-hour race while the points leaders at Patron Highcroft Racing, Brabham and Scott Sharp, fail to finish.

In the closing minutes of qualifying, de Ferran hit the curbs in an effort to hold the Acura of Brabham at bay. Although de Ferran damaged the undertray and was unable to improve on his lap of 1:11.206, Brabham could get no closer than nine one hundredths of a second in the Highcroft Acura.

In a tribute to his former team owner during his days as a CART competitor, the de Ferran Motorsport entry carried a white paint scheme with black trim in honor of Jim Hall and his Chaparral cars.

In a pre-race demonstration, de Ferran drove one of the Chaparrals at the track in honor of Hall.

The surprising Lowe’s Fernandez Racing team’s Diaz clocked a lap of 1:11.310 to take third on the grid in the Acura ARX-01b. Acura is considering a return to the LMP2 class next year and the lap of Diaz certainly provides encouragement. But if Acura returns, it will be without Lowe’s Fernandez, which anticipates closing its doors after not finding a replacement for the Lowe’s sponsorship.

“It’s a special weekend for us,” said Diaz, who clinched the driver’s championship along with co-driver and team owner Adrian Fernandez in Round 8. “It was a good thing to have a good result.”

Butch Leitzinger was the runner-up in LMP2 and fourth over-all with a lap of 1:12.051 aboard the Dyson Racing BP Lola-Mazda.

Jan Magnussen claimed the GT2 pole in the factory Corvette C6.R of Pratt & Miller. He was 0.167 seconds ahead of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT of Pierre Kaffer.

The Risi team, including co-driver Jaime Melo, remains in the hunt for the class championship in GT2 and needs at least a first or second place finish. But the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche drivers Jorg Bergmeister, who qualified seventh, and Patrick Long need only to finish 10th or better to claim the title.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 9 2009
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