Graf Muscles To Mosport Pole
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Forget the candles, the cake and the gifts. Klaus Graf threw himself a party Saturday with the best present of all – pole position for Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport.
On his 43rd birthday, Graf won his third straight pole position at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with a blistering lap of 1:06.486 (133.147 mph) around the 2.459-mile, 10-turn circuit.
Graf and Lucas Luhr – who celebrates his 33rd birthday Sunday – are going for a fourth straight victory in the American Le Mans Series. They lead the P1 championship with their No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a prototype.
A victory in Sunday’s race would be Graf and Muscle Milk’s third in a row at CTMP. Graf won in 2010 in a Porsche RS Spyder. He and Luhr drove an Aston Martin-powered Lola coupe last year.
“Lucas and I have been here many, many times,” Graf said. “We’ve won here repeatedly (five times between them). It doesn’t take us long to get up to speed. We kind of know the baseline of the car now, and we have really good engineering staff and simulation programs. The car wasn’t really good right away. We have good Michelin tires we weren’t concerned with, but the guys worked really hard between sessions to improve the car.”
Mission accomplished. Graf was 2.151 seconds clear of Dyson Racing’s Chris Dyson in the No. 16 Lola-Mazda he drives with Guy Smith. Eric Lux qualified third at 1:08.746 (128.770 mph) in Dyson Racing’s No. 20 Lola-Mazda.
The Muscle Milk HPD was quickest in each of Saturday’s practice sessions after sitting out Friday’s test session.
“People think it looks really, really easy, but it’s not,” Graf said. “We really worked hard between each session to make things better. The best lap here means being brave. You really have to go for it. In this P1 car, you only brake twice, maybe three times on a lap. Each corner is almost flat out. It is really impressive and fast. It takes a lot of confidence, you have to have that in your car or you might struggle just a bit. If you don’t feel very comfortable in the car, you just can’t do it.”
A day after posting the fastest overall time during the ALMS test day, Martin Plowman earned his first pole position – and first for Conquest Endurance – in the Series with a lap of 1:08.853 (128.570 mph). The No. 37 Morgan-Nissan he drives with David Heinemeier-Hansson was the fastest P2 car in qualifying by 0.567 seconds over Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut.
“This is very nice to get the first pole. It was even better in the manner we did it,” Plowman said. “We rolled the car off the truck and it was already on the mark. We did a few things in practice to try and improve the car. We made the right improvements. I went out during qualifying with my goals; all I had to do was hit my marks. I got it right on the sweet spot.”
Plowman and Heinemeier-Hansson have been the near-equal of the Bouchut/Scott Tucker pairing in all four races this season. The Conquest entry finished second the No. 055 Level 5 HPD ARX-03b in the last three races.
“We’ve bonded really well,” Plowman said of the Conquest team. “Racing is a people sport, and we’ve got some great people. I’d say the way this car handles, it’s not too alien for me – very similar to an open-wheel car. It’s a great car to drive, very drivable. The hardest part has been learning how to deal with the traffic, especially being in a middle class where the P1s are going faster and there are others going slower.”
After winning last year’s GT race, Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen took the class’ pole position in the No. 3 Corvette C6 ZR1 he shares with Antonio Garcia. The Dane posted a record-breaking lap of 1:15.478 (117.285 mph) to beat teammate Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 Corvette by 0.304 seconds.
Magnussen seeks his sixth career victory at CTMP, but Saturday’s pole position was only his second there in his ALMS career. He was the overall fastest qualifier for the 1999 race in a factory Panoz prototype.
“I love this place,” said Magnussen, who made his 100tth ALMS start two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park. “This is one of my favorite racetracks, probably because it is really fast. It has great flow and is a great challenge. I am super happy to be starting the race from the front row.”
Corvettes running 1-2 at CTMP is nothing new. It was a common sight when the velocity yellow racers were in GT1 and the team has a total of nine victories at the circuit – seven in GT1 and two in GT.
Magnussen and Garcia are second in the driver’s championship behind Gavin and Tommy Milner. Corvette Racing leads the team championship.
“In the past the Corvette has always been strong here,” Magnussen said. “Since we built the GT car, this year’s version has been the best. It isn’t the fastest because we have less horsepower, but it certainly is the best. We have a front-row start and will be racing for the championship, so we’ll need to play nice for the start.”
BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen qualified third in GT with a lap of 1:16.011 (116.462 mph). He will drive the No. 55 BMW M3 GT with Jörg Müller.
CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun captured his first ALMS pole position with a Prototype Challenge-record 1:10.698 (125.214 mph) in the team’s No. 05 ORECA FLM09. The young Texan and teammate Jon Bennett are on a two-race winning streak, and CORE hasn’t lost a race this season.
“To have a pole here is nice,” Braun said. “It doesn’t matter much for the race but it’s certainly nice for the stats. Hats off to our team as we’ve had a fast car all season, but not as much luck during qualifying. Jon did a great job getting our car on point during practices, and then I got to take it out during qualifying and bring home the result.”
Ryan Dalziel qualified the No. 06 CORE entry second at 1:10.935 (124.796 mph). He drives with class championship leader Alex Popow. The pairing were class winners at Long Beach in April. Merchant Services Racing’s Kyle Marcelli qualified third at 1:11.043 (124.606 mph). Last year’s pole-winner drives this weekend with Matt Downs.
“This double-car team is good,” Braun admitted. “We have twice the amount of data to go over and make changes with. It’s nice to beat a competitor like Kyle Marcelli, who is a hometown favorite. It makes this a little more special.”
Damien Faulkner may want to consider the Toronto area for a second home. The Irishman won his second straight GT Challenge pole with a lap of 1:21.615 (108.465 mph) in Green Hornet Racing’s No. 34 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. His time bested Bryce Miller’s qualifying time from 2010 to set a class record at the circuit.
“I have fond memories of this place having been here before,” said Faulkner, runner-up at the circuit last season. “I tried to carry the momentum in today. All weekend, we’ve been fast. I was shooting for a 21.7 and ended up getting a 21.6 and knew that would be enough for the lap.”
Faulkner teams with Peter LeSaffre this weekend but drove for Black Swan Racing last year. Saturday, Faulkner was 0.320 seconds clear of Spencer Pumpelly, last year’s winner in class who partners with Emilio Di Guida in the No. 66 TRG Porsche this weekend..
Leh Ken in Alex Job Racing’s championship-leading No. 22 Porsche qualified third-quickest at 1:22.520 (107.276 mph). Teammate Cooper MacNeil leads the drivers championship after the pairing won at Lime Rock Park.
“We went over the car with a fine tooth comb last night,” Faulkner said. “I think the crew was here till 2:30 this morning which is normal because the Green Hornet Racing crew is the hardest working crew in the paddock. We want to win tomorrow. We’ll be trying hard tomorrow.”
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