2009 ALMS Monterey Sports Car Championships Practice and Qualifying - Click above for a high-res image gallery
The ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend is Gil de Ferran's final race of his career, and he plans to go out on top. The Brazilian captured pole position yesterday in his Acura ARX-02a, which features a unique livery to honor Jim Hall, the man who de Ferran first raced for. The milk white paint and number 66 roundels mimic Hall's legendary Chaparral race cars, two of which were on hand at the track. Gil de Ferran's qualifying time of 1:11.206 was less than a tenth of a second off the class record, which was followed closely by fellow Acura driver David Brabham. Brabham and the rest of the Patron Highcroft Racing team need only to complete seventy percent of the race to wrap up the LMP1 championship.
The Lowe's Fernandez Racing LMP2 Acura team continued its season-long dominance by capturing its fourth pole of the season and hopes to record its eighth victory this year. Although the team secured the class championship at Petit Le Mans two weeks ago, it hasn't secured sponsorship for the 2010 season and hopes to make a good final impression.
In the hotly-contested GT2 category, Corvette Racing continued to prove that it will be a top contender no matter what class it competes in. Jan Magunessen edged out the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 in qualifying for Corvette's first ever GT2 pole position. The main battle will be between the Ferrari and the Flying Lizard Porsche GT3 RSR, both of which are still in contention for the championship.
Check back tomorrow for more of our ALMS coverage from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and if you have SPEED TV, tune in from 2:30 to 6:30 pm EST time on Sunday to watch the race, or listen live this afternoon at AmericanLeMans.com or on Sirius 126 and XM 242. If you simply want to view high-res pics from the race, then point your mouse to the gallery below.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Monterey Ca, (October 9, 2009) – Gil de Ferran started his weekend as he would like to continue with a stunning pole position in readiness for the tenth and final round of the American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca tomorrow (Saturday 10th October).
The Brazilian driver and team owner of de Ferran Motorsports could not contain his delight with his third (and his team's fifth) pole of the season.
"This is obviously a very special weekend for me as it is my final race," said Gil. "I have tried not to focus on this when I'm in the car and just think about getting the most out of the Acura and keeping my eye on the ball. It is not easy particularly with the special white livery for this race and the presence of Jim Hall who we are honoring this weekend. But I did it and it leaves a good taste in my mouth for an hour or so; then I have a four hour race tomorrow to think about!"
It was not an easy ride to pole for de Ferran. He was hounded all the way by his championship rival and driver of the sister Acura, David Brabham, who was just 0.092 off de Ferran's pole time of 1.11.206 (itself a fraction off the track's class record of 1.11.175). The car was not perfect and de Ferran feels there is still more to come.
"We've been struggling with the handling all weekend," said Gil. "We have gone in lots of different directions to try and solve the problem and we made a big change just before qualifying which seemed to improve things. But it is still not perfect. We had understeer in turns three, four, five and six so I was throwing the car into a slide just like a go-kart. It was kind of fun but we did have a few anxious moments at the end. But I have the pole and that is great. It is also consistent with other big moments in my career: I was on pole in my last ever IRL race in Texas and I went on to win that one. So I am heading in the right direction!"
The whole weekend has also been well documented as a tribute weekend to Jim Hall and his iconic Chaparral marque. The media and fans were wowed by the sparkling one-off livery of the No. 66 XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a when it was unveiled by Jim and Gil yesterday (Thursday). With half an eye on his past – de Ferran won his first ever IndyCar race with Hall at Laguna Seca – the present is very much at the forefront of Gil's young team. With the chance of championship honors still very real, tomorrow's race represents one of de Ferran and his super-quick team mate, Simon Pagenaud's greatest challenges.
"It is still anyone's race," said Gil, "and the championship is up for grabs. I would dearly love to win my last ever race as a professional driver but I won't drive differently. I pride myself in being a rational person and I believe whether you are racing for a million dollars or one cent you just have to give it your best and that is what both Simon and I will be doing tomorrow."
Simon Pagenaud will start tomorrow's four hour race. Gil has been named Grand Marshal of the race by the Laguna Seca organizers and he will be asking the drivers to 'start their engines', but there is also another good reason why Gil would like Simon to take the green flag...."I want to be the first person to see the chequered flag in my last race!" grinned de Ferran.
The Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Patrón is scheduled to start at 14.25pm (Pacific Time) tomorrow (Saturday 10th October). It will be televised in the US on Speed TV on Sunday 11th October (tape delayed) at 14.30 (Eastern Time) and in Europe on Motors TV on Sunday 18th October (tape delayed) between 17.00 and 21:00.