Jani Takes Laguna Pole For Rebellion
MONTEREY, Calif. — Neel Jani won his second straight pole position in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón on Friday with a lap of 1:13.429 (109.722 mph) in Rebellion Racing’s No. 12 Rebellion Timepieces/Lemo Connectors/Speedy Garage Toyota-powered Lola coupe.
On his first ALMS trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Jani went 0.377 seconds quicker in qualifying for Saturday’s American Le Mans Monterey than Dyson Racing’s Guy Smith in the No. 16 Mazda/Thetford/Norcold Mazda-powered Lola.
The three fastest cars Friday were within 0.525 seconds. Klaus Graf qualified third for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in the No. 6 Muscle Milk Honda Performance Development ARX-03a-Honda. Muscle Milk is tied with Rebellion for the lead in the ALMS’ P1 championship.
“We’ve proved in qualifying and in the races that we have a really good pace,” said Jani, who drives with Nick Heidfeld. “But we know ALMS is about strategy and traffic management, especially since the races are shorter than in (the FIA World Endurance Championship).”
Jani was the fastest qualifier at last month’s Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. Graf and Lucas Luhr came out on top though due to a more timely strategy from the Muscle Milk squad.
“We (have added) more tactics and strategies to get to the same level as Muscle Milk,” Jani said. “So now we are hoping to show them we can get our first overall win this season. The team, the car, drivers, engineers… we’ve been together a long time. So now we know what to do in certain situations and we know what to do to win the race.”
Level 5 Motorsports qualified 1-2 in the class with Marino Franchitti earning his first pole position in the class since 2010. He posted a lap of 1:16.642 (105.123 mph) in the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort HPD ARX-03b-Honda that he shares with team owner Scott Tucker.
Franchitti was 0.360 seconds ahead of teammate Ryan Briscoe in the No. 552 Level 5 prototype. The team turned the tables on P2 rival Extreme Speed Motorsports, which finished 1-2 in class at Long Beach.
“After the tough race we had at Long Beach for Level 5, Scott, Ryan, myself and the whole team have been working hard to bounce back strong, and we’ve done that today,” Franchitti said. “The cars (in the class) are very close, and getting (a 1-2 result) was our aim. It was important to get that. The ESM cars are strong, maybe not as strong as at Long Beach, but they’ll be there over the four hours. If we slip up, they’ll be there.”