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Pagenaud Takes Record, Pole At Utah

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 16 2009

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Correspondent

almsTuele, Utah – Simon Pagenaud spanked the American Le Mans Series track record at the daunting 15-turn Miller Motorsports Park circuit to win the pole for the de Ferran Motorsports Acura team.

Aboard the radical “four square” LMP1 class ARX-02a design of Acura, the Frenchman dropped three seconds from his best time in practice.

“In practice you try to understand where to go quicker,” said Pagenaud of the car with front and rear wheels of the same size. “Before qualifying we made a change and it worked out really, really well.”

The de Ferran team’s main challenger for Sunday’s two hour, 45-minute race, the Highcroft Racing Acura, will start alongside on the front row after David Brabham fell 0.736 seconds short of Pagenaud’s record lap. 

It was the second straight pole for Pegenaud. Racing in the Le Mans Series in Belgium last weekend, Pagenaud took the Peugeot 908 to the pole before co-driving to the victory.

Earlier this year, Pagenaud took the pole at St. Petersburg in round two of the ALMS as the Frenchman and the former Champ Car driver is rapidly gaining stature as a sports car pilot.

The new Ginetta-Zytek GZ09 HS hybrid qualified third in the LMP1 category and sixth over-all. Because the car has yet to be homologated by the ACO rulemakers at Le Mans, it is ineligible to run with additional power from its Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The electric motor has been disconnected for the sake of the race and the car is powered only by its 4.0-liter Zytek V-8.

“We’ve just done a few laps on a little track in Britain just before the race,” said driver Johnny Mowlem of the car’s difficult development process. “We’re going to run it with the electric motor disconnected. So that means we’ll have extra weight up high and more friction in the driveline, all the things that you don’t want.”

After the Dyson Racing Mazda-Lola set the quickest time in practice, the Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b bounced back in qualifying to win the LMP2 class pole. The Mazda-Lola’s four-cylinder turbo thrives on the long straight of Miller, but the cornering of the Acura in the hands of Luis Diaz spelled the difference.

In GT2 qualifying, Jorg Bergmeister took the Flying Lizard Porsche to the pole, edging the Ferrari 430 GT Berlinetta of Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo by 0.145 seconds. Although the mid-engined Ferrari has better balance for the highly technical circuit, Melo suffered from oversteer.

“I think we’ll be OK for the race,” he said. “There’s some more we can do.”

After recording only six laps in the morning practice, the Porsche of Farnbacher Loles driven by Wolf Henzler survived a spin to take third on the grid, 0.191 seconds behind the GT3 RSR of Bergmeister.

The Utah round is the first race where the Challenge class for the Cup version of the Porsche will participate. Looking to add more cars to the grid, IMSA added the category for less powerful Porsches to the ALMS race. These production-line Porsche racers normally run a separate race on their own, but five have been invited to step up and participate in the main ALMS race.

Carl Skerlong’s Challenge Porsche was a distant nine seconds behind GT2 class pole winner Porsche of Bergmeister.    

When the Zytek will step up to hybrid status remains to be seen.

IMSA representatives have said the newness of the car and a lack of information available to the ACO has slowed the homologation process. The car’s entry and its exhibition lap at Miller indicate readiness for full consideration by the French rule makers, represented in Utah by Daniel Pedrie.

Unlike the KERS used in F1, the endurance prototype version adds power after 70 percent throttle. Its main advantage is seen as saving on fuel mileage, althought the ACO in the recent past has rewarded innovative technology with more horsepower in the case of diesel entries from Audi and Peugeot.

The next opportunity for the Zytek, the next round of the ALMS, will not take place until July at Lime Rock, after the Le Mans 24-hour. 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 16 2009
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