The streets of Long Beach are playing host to the ALMS, Indy Racing League, and SCCA World Challenge GT this weekend, and things got kicked off yesterday with two practice sessions for the ALMS. Acura racers claimed the top three spots, led by David Brabham in his P1 class ARX-02a. His car set the bar with a 1:14.226 lap time followed by Adrian Fernandez in the P2 class. Brabham is coming off an overall win in St. Petersburg and was victorious in the P2 class at this venue last year.
In GT1, the Chevrolet Corvettes returned from a one race hiatus to bring back a four-class race, Olivier Beretta setting the faster time ahead of the sister car. In GT2, the Ferrari F430 GT driven by Jamie Melo barely edged out the Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 RSR by a mere .06 seconds followed by Flying Lizard Motorsports in third. Full details on the practice session with drivers' quotes after the jump, and plenty of high-res photos captured through Autoblog's lenses in the gallery below.
Related Gallery2009 ALMS at Long Beach Practice Session
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc
With memories of last year's last-lap pass for an LMP2 victory still fresh in his mind, David Brabham was the quickest driver in Thursday's test session for the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. Now in LMP1, Brabham's best time on the Long Beach circuit was a 1:14.226 (95.449 mph) in Patrón Highcroft Racing's Acura ARX-02a.
Just as he did last season, Brabham will team with Scott Sharp in search of its second straight overall win in the American Le Mans Series. They were victorious two weeks ago at St. Petersburg.
The cars took part in two separate sessions with qualifying set for Friday afternoon.
Brabham, who set his time in the latter session, went 1.224 seconds quicker than Adrian Fernandez in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b. Fernandez, who has a lengthy history at Long Beach from his CART days, is driving with Luis Diaz in the LMP2 entry that scored class wins at both Sebring and St. Petersburg. Acura held the top three spots of the day with Simon Pagenaud placing third in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura P1 entry that he will share with team owner Gil de Ferran. Pagenaud was the only one of the top three to post his time in the first session.
Intersport Racing's Lola B06/10-AER of Jon Field, Clint Field and Chapman Ducote was third in P1.
Dyson Racing's two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes were second and third in P2. The entry of Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti were quickest ahead of the sister car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.
Olivier Beretta was quickest in GT1 as Corvette Racing continued to prepare for its final American Le Mans Series race in the class. Beretta's time of 1:18.450 (90.310 mph) in the entry he will share with Oliver Gavin was 0.341 seconds better than the sister car of defending race winners Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. Both cars set their quickest times in the second session.
Corvette Racing will transition to GT2 at Mid-Ohio in August, but not before campaigning the GT1 cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a final time in June.
Jaime Melo was the fastest GT2 driver in Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Pierre Kaffer. Melo, who won here two years ago with Mika Salo, turned a lap of 1:21.334 (87.107 mph) to barely outpace Farnbacher Loles Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner by a scant 0.06 seconds. Both times were from the second session.
Flying Lizard Motorsports' Porsche of Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister was third in class but fastest in the first session at 1:21.992 (86.408 mph).
David Brabham, Patrón Highcroft Racing
Acura ARX-02a (LMP1)
"We made some pretty good improvements during the session. We don't have a lot of time here so you have to be sure you get it right. We have some direction for tomorrow so that is the main thing that we really needed to achieve today. Last year was a huge race for us here; it really got our season going. There is a real difference between thinking you can win and knowing you can. That was the case at Long Beach last year and we now enter this weekend with a win already under our belt at St. Pete."
Pierre Kaffer, Risi Competizione
Ferrari F430 GT (GT2)
"It was good. I took the Long Beach circuit from the internet. When you only have a small amount of practice time you have to compromise on some things. It worked very well, I have to say. Long Beach is a special track and it is different from St. Petersburg. I really enjoy the street courses. Long Beach has the rhythm on the corners. It is not as tight as St. Pete. It is quick with more bumps."
Gil de Ferran, de Ferran Motorsports
Acura ARX-02a (LMP1)
"It was very slippery. I guess it's normal on the first day of a street circuit, and we are just working through the tires and trying to understand the tires and have the best setup for the race."
Johnny O'Connell, Corvette Racing
Corvette C6.R (GT1)
"We are excited and sad. It is the end of a very special era. This has been an amazing car. If there was one team that set the bar for other cars in the American Le Mans Series to emulate, it's Corvette Racing. There are amazing teams in GT2 and great drivers in Ferrari, Porsche and BMW. In 2010, all eyes are going to be on GT2. If you think about it, it's a cool change. It used to be prototype, prototype, prototype. Now it's GT2. This is where you want to be."
Bryan Sellers, Team Falken Tire
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2)
(On preparing for Long Beach on an iRacing simulator) "The simulator is a big help. The track looks the same of course. The biggest difference is that there is risk involved here. On the simulator there is no risk but you can't simulate that. Today has been strictly about getting as much seat time for myself and Dominic, and doing as many laps as possible. But things are going OK so far."
Joey Hand, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team
BMW M3, GT2
"I hope we can turn it around this week. I brought the whole family with me, so hopefully that will help. I got a fortune cookie a couple of days ago that said 'Your talent is going to be needed this week.' I certainly hope it is. I've also grown a goatee; that's my rally cap. There is really not a lot you can do about the little gremlins that have been cropping up on our end. We think this is our week."
Richard Westbrook, T-Mobile® VICI Racing™
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2)
"I'm excited to be a part of this program. Everyone is working really well, and so is the car. We want to complete the race with bright plans for the future. The pace is OK right now. I am new to the track. Johannes (Stuck) is new to the track so there is a lot of learning. You have to get on with it. We're not here to tell each other jokes. We're here to work and to head in the same direction."
Mike Lewis, Autocon Motorsports
Lola B06/10-AER (LMP1)
"I drove the car at Miller Motorsports Park a couple of weeks ago but this is the first race for me this year. It's a lot of work for cars like this go fast around here. They weren't exactly built for these kinds of tight and nimble street courses. We should be able to do more at Utah."
The race is set for 4:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 18 from the famed Long Beach street circuit in southern California. The race will be televised from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 19 on ABC. Qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT on Friday, April 17. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com. The race also will be aired on XM Channel 242 and Sirius Channel 126 from 7 to 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The race also will mark the next round for the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge. For tickets, visit americanlemans.com or gplb.com.