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Bergmeister On Rolex 24 Pole

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 27 2011

Jorg Bergmeister won the pole for this weekend's Rolex 24 Grand-Am series race at Daytona on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Racing Series)


Endurance racing specialist Jorg Bergmeister surprised even himself Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Asked by his team to attempt one more lap during the 15-minute session, Bergmeister laid down aDaytona Prototype track qualifying record time of 1:40.099 (128.033 mph) to capture the pole for Saturday’s 49th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.

North America’s most prestigious sports car endurance race is the first of a 12-event GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule.

“I was ready to come in, and the team told me to try again,” said Bergmeister, the 2006 series champion. “I went for it. I risked everything and it worked out perfectly. I knew we have a great car and a great engine but I was really surprised to win the pole. With the team running the DP for the first time, I was hoping to qualify in the top-five.”

Ironically, Bergmeister’s No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche/Riley is the same car in which David Donohue set the previous record of 1:40.540 (127.492 mph) around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile course that includes portions of the repaved 2.5-mile oval. Donohue went on to win the 2009 Rolex 24 for Brumos Racing, becoming the seventh and most recent driver to win the race from the pole.

“This car has some great history,” said Bergmeister, who will co-drive with Patrick Long, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek.

Bergmeister will be joined on the inside of the two-car front row by Max Angelelli, who ran 1:40.133 (127.990 mph) in the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet/Dallara. Pole-sitter at last year’s Rolex 24, Angelelli was just 34-thousandths of a second off the record-setting time of Bergmeister. Angelelli qualified on the front row for the fifth time in eight Rolex 24s since SunTrust joined the series in 2004.

“I’m happy with the front row, absolutely happy,” said Angelelli, the 2005 series champion who also was under the previous track qualifying record. “It’s good. Our car is a pole-sitter car, definitely not a second-place car. The team did a fantastic job and gave me a good car. I couldn’t put together the ultimate lap – too many mistakes – and I’m second.”

Angelelli is co-driving with regular fulltime teammate Ricky Taylor, IZOD IndyCar Series star Ryan Briscoe and team-owner Wayne Taylor. Angelelli’s previous Rolex 24 qualifying efforts featured his pole last season and outside front-row starting spots in 2004, 2005 and 2007. He and Wayne Taylor went on to win the 2005 Rolex 24 to kick-off a dominating series championship run that season.

“I know Max is disappointed because he thinks – we all think – we had the car for the pole,” Wayne Taylor said. “But I think P2 is still a great result. Last year we qualified on the pole here and nothing happened. Both times I’ve qualified P2 (in 1996 and 2005), we won the race. So that’s a good position. A big thanks to Chevrolet and ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies) for the new engines. You know, it only counts what happens on Sunday, but it’s a great start.”

Also under the previous DP track record were Scott Pruett(128.033 mph) in the No. 01 BMW/Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates; Ryan Dalziel (127.840 mph) in the No. 8 Ford/Riley of Starworks Motorsport and Scott Dixon in the No. 02 BMW/Riley also of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

The top five qualifying teams feature a lineup of GRAND-AM, NASCAR and INDYCAR series stars. Pruett will share seat-time with Memo Rojas, Graham Rahal and Joey Hand. Dalziel’s teammates are Mike Forest, Colin Braun, Jim Lowe and Tomas Enge. Dixon will run with fellow-Indianapolis 500 champions Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya, and Daytona 500 champ Jamie McMurray.

Also eclipsing Donohue’s qualifying record were Antonio Garcia (127.654 mph), Brian Frisselle (127.563 mph) and A.J. Allmendinger (127.562 mph).

In GT qualifying, Dominik Farnbacher was awarded the pole with a lap of 1:48.781 (117.815 mph) in the No. 66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup after teammate Andy Lally’s time was disallowed due to a technical violation. Lally ran a lap of 1:48.487 (118.134 mph) in the No. 66 TRG entry. But during post-qualifying inspection, the blue-and-black Porsche’s rear spoiler was found to be mounted too far to the rear – by one-millimeter – and the time was disallowed.

A two-time Rolex 24-Hour winner, Lally laid down his fast lap during his fifth circuit, but the post-qualifying infraction sent him to the back of the GT field for the start on Saturday. Lally’s car is owned by Kevin Buckler, a former Daytona 24-Hour champion.

“This was a really nit-picky call,” said Lally, who is teamed with Steve Bertheau, Brendan Gaughan, Spencer Pumpelly and Wolf Henzler. “We went down to tech to measure the wing before qualifying; we knew we were close but we thought we were within the spec. We have such a good car. We now have to make our way through the 30-car GT field safely. We did this last year. We started from the back in 2010 and by the first pit stop we were third. We’ll have to do that again.”

Jordan Taylor will start second in the Autohaus Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro (117.771 mph). Craig Stanton (117.566 mph) and Nick Tandy (117.434 mph) also were under Jeff Segal’s year-old GT record of 117.275 mph.

The race will take the green flag at 3:30 p.m. (ET). SPEED will provide seven hours of live coverage on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m., resuming with seven hours on Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. In addition, live radio coverage on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius NASCAR Channel 128 will be available Saturday from 3-5 p.m. and 7-7:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8-8:30 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.

Final Rolex Series practice is set for Friday morning from 9 a.m. to noon (ET), followed by the GRAND-AM 200 for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at 1:30 p.m.

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 27 2011
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