Dyson Racing's Guy Smith fended off Muscle Milk Pickett Racing rival Lucas Luhr in a tight pole battle as the American Le Mans Series resumed at Lime Rock following its break for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Smith grabbed provisional pole early with a 44.113-second lap in the No. 16 Lola B12/60 Mazda he shares with Chris Dyson. Luhr started out with a 44.330sec in his and Klaus Graf's HPD ARX-03a, then edged ever closer to Smith – cutting the gap to first 0.012sec, then 0.006sec.
But Smith had more to come, and improved to 44.017sec to secure the top spot for Dyson. Smith said the team is operating with an improved package following testing during the break, and heads into Saturday's race as defending champions of the event.
“We have struggled this year, it has been an uphill battle,” Smith said. “But after Laguna Rob said we need to knuckle down and put in the work. We've worked for the last seven weeks and tested and tested and tested. It's ok if you get beat and you are competitive, but to not do well and be unhappy it's frustrating. We've come here and regrouped and focused.”
Both cars are operating with a restrictor increase this weekend, and with the extra power available they had a healthy 2.5-second gap to the second, older Dyson Lola Mazda driven by Eric Lux.
Bill Auberlen (ABOVE) claimed GT pole for BMW by the relatively large margin of 0.379sec in the No. 55 car. Marco Holzer had originally put Flying Lizard's usually overshadowed No. 44 Porsche up in second place, on an equal time to Oliver Gavin's No. 4 Corvette, but the car was later sent to the rear of the grid for failing a ride height check at post-qualifying tech inspection. The second entries from Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW, Flying Lizard Porsche and Corvette completed the revised top five.
Auberlen is one of four drivers (Jan Magnussen, Jorg Bergmeister, Leitzinger) celebrating his 100th ALMS start this weekend, although it's only his second time as fastest qualifier in the series – the last came in 2005.
“We rolled off the start really strong,” Auberlen said. “We got really strong, the next session we got better. The session went green and we banged a good lap out. The session went red (incident for Ed Brown's Extreme Speed Ferrari) and we're lucky that the car was already there.”
Christophe Bouchut kept Level 5 on top in P2, qualifying third overall. Team principal Scott Tucker out-qualified Martin Plowman behind him, with the HPD ARX-03bs clear of the Conquest Morgan Nissan.
Kyle Marcelli put Merchant Services' lone entry, the No. 8 car, on pole in the PC class field, ahead of RSR's Bruno Junqueira. This segment was red-flagged for a while after Tom Kimber-Smith spun championship leader Alex Popow's No. 06 CORE Autosport car into the chicane barriers. Kimber-Smith's time was still good enough for fourth in class, behind Butch Leitzinger (PR1/Mathiasen). Either of the front-row starters seek to end CORE's three-race win streak to start the 2012 season.
Leh Keen took GTC pole for Alex Job Racing, ahead of TRG's Spencer Pumpelly and Green Hornet's Damien Faulkner.
The race goes green at 3:05 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, with live coverage beginning at 2:45 via ESPN3 live stream, and TV coverage at 4:00 on ESPN2.