Klaus Graf secured Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's first pole at its home track, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as he drove the team's HPD ARX-03a to a time of 1:13.573. Graf also won pole this year at Sebring, although that was ALMS P1 behind three FIA WEC Audi LMP1 entrants. The team is based in nearby Benicia, Calif., about two hours north of the track.
“The pace will be close to the competition, but we're going to be pushing the whole time,” Graf said of the team's strategy for Saturday. “You don't want to get out of the rhythm, but you can beat yourself here. There are a lot of cars in lots of different classes. We have to be careful in traffic, as always.”
Graf's pole ended Guy Smith's streak of two straight poles at the track, as the Dyson Racing team continues to get the handle on its new Lola B12/60 Mazda coupe. The gap between the two cars was a full 1.785 seconds. Graf co-drives with Lucas Luhr, Smith with Chris Dyson and Johnny Mowlem as the two have split strategies in terms of number of drivers.
P2 came down to a battle between the two Level 5s in the P2-spec HPD, and Christophe Bouchut edged new recruit Franck Montagny by .089 of a second.
With respectable times, the HPDs were less than half a second off the Dyson Lola in third and fourth overall. Montagny will run in both cars, as will team principal Scott Tucker, with Bouchut solely in the No. 055 car and Luis Diaz in the No. 95 on Saturday.
Dempsey Racing's new Lola Judd ended 1.6 seconds off the Level 5 pace, but it was a more than respectable showing for Jonny Cocker in the team's debut in P2 in fifth overall. Cocker co-drives with team principals Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster. The Libra Radical was nearly 6 seconds off the Level 5 pace, and Conquest Racing wasn't able to run due to a suspension problem with its Morgan Nissan.
Aston Martin Racing and Darren Turner captured a surprise GT class pole aboard the team's Vantage. Turner, in his first race at the track since running a GT1-class DBR9 in 2006, stormed to pole by some 0.432 of a second and at a time of 1:22.229. By comparison, second through eighth in the highly competitive class were separated by just 0.281 of a second.
“The car seems good in the medium speed corners here, it's only the very slow stuff like Turn 2 and Turn 11 where we're not good,” Turner said. “The car hooked up, it was one of those sessions where the car goes. I kept it off the sandy bits and kept it clean.”
The AMR Vantage is the only GT class entrant running three drivers as opposed to two – Turner drives alongside Adrian Fernandez and Stefan Mucke, and the latter two are seeking a repeat of their win in this race last year. The only difference is that last year's was the overall triumph as opposed to GT.
Until a late flier by Antonio Garcia, five different manufacturers were represented in the top five positions. Garcia's Corvette made it two ‘Vettes in the top five, with Tommy Milner second and Garcia fourth. Jorg Muller (third, BMW Team RLL) and Patrick Long (fifth, Flying Lizard Porsche) completed the top five.
Despite showing impressive pace throughout the weekend, Ferrari was bumped to sixth and eighth with the two Patron Extreme Speed cars, and split Joey Hand's second BMW. The three remaining Porsches – all competing with a new rear wing, splitter and restrictor this weekend – were all ninth or lower in the 12-car class.
In the PC class, Bruno Junqueira scored his second pole in as many attempts, having also done so at Sebring. The RSR Racing team has yet to translate Junqueira's pace into a result, and will look to do so this race with the three-driver lineup of the Brazilian alongside Tomy Drissi and Roberto Gonzalez.
“Now having a car that is competitive is really fun,” said Junqueira, who was part of the Jaguar RSR effort last year. “I didn't pay attention much to the LMPC cars last year and now we have nine cars that are nine tenths of a second from each other. With nine tenths in this track, it's easy to catch up.”
Tom Kimber-Smith showed well for CORE autosport in his first race in class, qualifying second ahead of Memo Gidley (Muscle Milk), Butch Leitzinger (PR1/Mathiasen), Colin Braun (CORE) and Ryan Lewis (Dempsey).
Damien Faulkner took the GTC class pole position for Green Hornet Racing. The Irishman beat out a number of his former Porsche Supercup rivals – Nick Tandy, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Martin Ragginger – within the class.
The race goes green at 1:30 p.m. local time, 4:30 p.m. ET, on Saturday.