The designers at Lola and Aston Martin didn't quite have the historic Long Beach street circuit in mind when they built Aston Martin Racing's sleek closed-top Lola-Aston Martin prototype. Distance-wise, two laps at Long Beach is a little more than one pass down the famed Mulsanne Straight. One of the biggest questions of this weekend's Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach, therefore, is just how the big prototype will maneuver around Long Beach on its first visit. Adrian Fernandez and Harold Primat gave a promising answer to that question by dominating the opening practice session Friday morning. Fernandez wound up with the fastest lap around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit, at 1:15.112 (94.323mph) with his Aston Martin-powered Lola coupe. His fast lap was 1.082sec faster than the next-fastest car, the Highcroft Acura of Simon Pagenaud, at 1:16.194.
Despite the promising beginning, AMR team principal and manager George Howard-Chappell remained cautious about the team's progress.
"We did street races with the [Ferrari 550 Maranello] GT car at Miami and Trois-Rivieres, so it's not completely new for us,” said Howard-Chappell, who held the same role when Prodrive campaigned the GT1 Ferraris. “Of course, this car isn't suited for a street circuit – it was built for Le Mans. So we'll be running the highest downforce setting we have. The car will be very good on the two long straights and we should be good for the race. But I'd be very surprised if we are on pole or on the front row. The P2 cars are so much better suited for tracks like this. But we'll give it a good and see what happens.”
Fernandez, Primat and Stefan Mucke placed second at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last month, and the trio also placed second in the Le Mans Series' opening round this past weekend at Paul Ricard, finishing only behind Audi's reworked R15 Plus turbo-diesel.
“Paul Ricard was good. It was fortunate for us that the [ORECA-run] Peugeot had trouble,” Howard-Chappell said. “We didn't have any problems and neither did the Audi. We're still not going to be the diesels; we have to be around to pick up some pieces. That's what happened last weekend.”
Guy Smith was third quickest in the session in the Dyson Racing Lola B09 86/Mazda he shares with Chris Dyson. In the GT class, Jan Magnussen topped the times with his Corvette at 1:21.895, just 0.008sec faster than Jaime Melo in his Ferrari 430 GT.
The American Le Mans Series race is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, with delayed TV coverage on SPEED set for 8 p.m. ET.