Adrian Fernandez put Aston Martin on pole position for round two of the American Le Mans Series in Long Beach, but only after a very tight battle with Highcroft HPD-Acura's Simon Pagenaud.
In the first event for the new combined and performance-balanced single LMP class, the LMP1 Aston and LMP2 HPD proved evenly matched. Fernandez set the early pace, but was then pipped by Pagenaud just before a mid-session stoppage to clear debris.
When qualifying resumed for a final shoot-out, Fernandez reclaimed the top spot with a 1m13.213s lap, and Pagenaud had to settle for second after lapping just 0.072sec slower on his last effort.
“This isn't a new environment; I've competed here many times,” said Fernandez, who won in an LMP2 Acura here last year with Luis Diaz. “To come here with a new team and be successful is great.
"After being here a long time, you learn when to push and when to take care of your tires. You have to be alert and work well with your team. I expect a good race tomorrow, especially with the old LMP2s.They are a bit better on the braking, but we are faster on the straights – so it'll be like the old days when we had to fight with the Audis.”
The pole combatants ended up a second clear of the rest of the field, with the Dyson Lola-Mazda and CytoSport Porsche lining up third and fourth on the grid. Jon Field was back after his ferocious Sebring practice accident and took Intersport's older Lola to fifth. Drayson will start back in sixth after Jonny Cocker went down an escape road early in the session and had difficult extricating the car.
Jaime Melo gave Risi Ferrari another pole in the rebranded GT class. The Brazilian needed only a single run early in the session to immediately go half a second clear of his rivals, before returning to the pits to watch them fail to beat him.
Wolf Henzler underlined Falken Porsche's gains this year with second. The two Corvettes will start third and fifth in class, split by the top Flying Lizard Porsche, with the Rahal Letterman BMWs and Extreme Speed Ferraris next up.
Level 5 driver Christophe Bouchut was fastest among the LMPC field, just ahead of Gunnar Jeanette's Green Earth Gunnar entry. Black Swan Racing's Jeroen Bleekemolen took GTC pole, beating TRG's Andy Lally in the all-Porsche GT3 class.