Neel Jani will go down in the history books as the final overall pole-sitter in American Le Mans Series history, as the Swiss driver stormed to the top spot for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans.
Driving the No. 12 Lola B12/60 Toyota, Jani reeled off a best lap of 1:09.254 in qualifying Friday at Road Atlanta. He outran the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c of Lucas Luhr by a considerable 1.143 seconds.
It marked Jani’s second consecutive Petit Le Mans pole as the Anglo-Swiss squad searches for a repeat victory in the 1,000-mile/10-hour enduro tomorrow.
“We’ve seen many times in qualifying that we were quicker than [Muscle Milk] but we’ve seen that in the races, it’s a different game,” said Jani, who will share driving duties with Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld.
“Especially with the GTCs, the safety cars, etc. The visibility in our car is a bit difficult compared to the open car. Everything adds up. That means the race is always close.”
While having wrapped up the P1 title at Baltimore, Luhr and co-driver Klaus Graf, along with Romain Dumas, will be looking for the team’s 9th win of the year on Saturday, in what could be a mega two-way battle for top honors.
Starting third overall and first in P2 will be the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Anthony Lazzaro, thanks to Brabham’s 1:12.668 lap time.
However, it was not the quickest in class, as Ryan Briscoe clocked a 1:12.490 late in the 15-minute session but subsequently stopped on track after running out of fuel. It brought out a red flag, which eliminated the Australian’s best time.
As a result, Briscoe and co-drivers Scott Tucker and Marino Franchitti will line up second in class, ahead of Level 5′s No. 552 entry of Guy Cosmo, Peter Dumbreck and Jonny Kane in third.
Dane Cameron took his second consecutive PC pole and third in four races, storming to a 1:14.955 lap time in his PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09.
Cameron outpaced the No. 9 RSR Racing machine of Bruno Junqueira by 0.165 seconds, with the No. 05 CORE autosport entry of Tom Kimber-Smith completing the top-three.
PR1 and CORE head into tomorrow’s race tied on points in the teams’ championship, with Cameron’s co-driver Mike Guasch holding a 11-point lead in the drivers’ title race.
Fresh off its first win of the year at Virginia International Raceway, Risi Competizione continued its hot streak in ALMS competition with Matteo Malucelli taking the GT class pole.
The Italian peddled the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia to a fast lap of 1:18.861, narrowly edging out the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R of Jonathan Bomarito by 0.027 seconds.
It marked the second pole of the season for the Houston-based squad and broke BMW Team RLL’s three-race pole win streak.
Malucelli and full-season driver Olivier Beretta will be joined by rapid Scot Robin Liddell on Saturday.
Bomarito and co-drivers Kuno Wittmer and Tommy Kendall will line up second in class, ahead of the sister Viper, qualified in third by Marc Goossens.
The top-five was completed by the two class championship contenders, with Antonio Garcia reeling off a 1:19.128 to go fourth in class, ahead of rival Dirk Muller in the No. 56 BMW Team RLL, which completed the top five.
Garcia and Corvette Racing co-driver Jan Magnussen holds a 16-point lead over BMW’s Mueller.
In GTC, Spencer Pumpelly scored his third class pole of the year, taking his Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a best lap of 1:24.118.
Pumpelly edged out the No. 22 Alex Job Racing entry of Jeroen Bleekemolen by 0.315 seconds. The No. 27 Dempsey Racing machine of Andy Lally was third in class.
Bleekemolen and co-driver Cooper MacNeil head into tomorrow’s race with a 13-point lead in the title race, with Alex Job Racing two points behind Flying Lizard in the teams’ title race.
The 16th annual Petit Le Mans takes the green flag at 11:30 a.m. EDT, with live coverage on FOX Sports 2.