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Pagenaud Scores Pole In Utah

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010

After a rough start in the morning, the Patron Highcroft Racing team bounced back during a hot afternoon at the Miller Motorsports Park to take the pole for Sunday’s two hour, 45-minute American Le Mans Series race.

Simon Pagenaud sat out most of the session before turning a lap of 1:34.350 on the 3.048-mile outer circuit in his HPD ARX-01c chassis. That was considerably slower than his pole last year (1:30.645) set during the cooler weather of May in the LMP1-class Acura ARX-01b.

“This morning was difficult for us,” said the Frenchman of the team’s effort to adapt the new aerodynamic package first used at the Le Mans 24-hour in June to the circuit outside Utah’s Salt Lake City. “We kept making changes to improve the car,” he said. “But when you run less downforce the car becomes a lot more sensitive to what you do with it. The car was very unstable this morning in the corners.”

The team stuck with most of the adaptions first used at Le Mans in the rear, but made changes to the front to account for the Miller circuit’s wide variety of corners as well as long straight.

In qualifying for Round 4 of the ALMS, Pagenaud’s lap eclipsed the Judd-powered Lola B09/60 of Johnny Cocker, who will be joined at Drayson Racing this weekend by Emanuele Pirro due to the injured foot of team owner Lord Paul Drayson. Former Audi pilot Pirro was the winner of the first ALMS event at Miller in 2006. Cocker trailed by 0.336 seconds, but the young British driver gave the Drayson team its first front-row start of the season.

In Castrol colors for the first time this season, the Dyson Racing team had hoped to contend for the pole due to the high elevation of the Utah track and the team’s single turbo, four-cylinder engine that is badged as a Mazda and built by AER. The turbo boost generally compensates better for the thinner air at higher altitudes, but Chris Dyson could manage only third on the grid, nearly half a second adrift from the pole.

Klaus Graf was fourth in LMP aboard the Porsche RS Spyder of Team Cytosport and Jon Field was fifth in his Lola B06/10 powered by AER.

In GT, Ferrari 430 GTC entries swept the top three positions in GT in the first race where the Italian marque has switched to E85 fuel for its V-8. Gianmaria “Gimmi” Brunni of Risi Competizione was quickest in his first visit to the Salt Lake circuit in the team’s No. 62 entry. The Italian was 0.062 seconds faster than the Ferrari of Extreme Speed Motorsports, which posted its best qualifying session of the season in the hands of Johannes van Overbeek.

Driving the No. 61 Risi entry, Toni Vilander was third in GT, edging defending pole winner Jorg Bergmeister’s Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR by 0.012 seconds. Over-all, the top eight cars in GT were separated by just 0.6 seconds, including the two Rahal Letterman Racing factory BMW M3 entries and the ZR1’s of Corvette Racing. The RLR team tested its Dunlop tires at Road Atlanta to come up with new hot weather compounds and may come on stronger in the race where all teams must start on their qualifying rubber.

The new Jaguar XKRS entered by Paul Gentilozzi continued to be a disappointment, qualifying 4.5 seconds behind the pole winners.

Gunnar Jeannette won the pole for the LMP Challenge class aboard the spec Oreca FLM09, beating Christophe Bouchut by 0.254 seconds.

In the GT Challenge class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, Jeroen Bleekemolen took the top qualifying position among the nine entries.

Over-all, 28 cars participated in qualifying, including six LMP entries, five LMP C prototypes and ten in the GT class. Missing was the Team Falken Tire Porsche, which suffered a fire at the rear of iyd GT3 RSR in the morning sesson . The team expected to make repairs in time for the race.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010
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