At the very venue he made his American Le Mans Series debut a year ago, Simon Pagenaud turned in the fastest time in Friday's test for this weekend's Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park. Pagenaud posted the five fastest times in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a during the two-hour session.
Pagenaud's best time was a 1:31.687 (119.677 mph), good enough to best Patron Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and his Acura LMP1 entry by an impressive 1.157 seconds (1:32.844 and 118.185 mph). But in addition to Pagenaud's five quickest laps, teammate and team owner Gil de Ferran had the next two fastest circuits. In the team's debut here last year, the pairing placed third overall and in LMP2 with Pagenaud posting the race's fastest lap.
The young Frenchman is having a tremendous week, having won the Spa 1,000- kilometer race five days ago in a factory Peugeot diesel. His first race in the LMP1 coupe also saw him qualify on pole position and turn the fastest race lap.
"The first few laps today I was struggling a little bit," Pagenaud admitted. "I had to get used to repositioning in the cockpit and a different perspective from the seat. But the Acura is very, very good here. There are a lot of high-speed corners here, and I enjoy these kinds of circuits. I think it will be a very good week for us."
Both Acura P1 entries have won races this year - Brabham and Scott Sharp at St. Petersburg, and Pagenaud and de Ferran at Long Beach in the most recent round.
Dyson Racing's Guy Smith was the fastest LMP2 driver and was third overall in the Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 that he is sharing with Chris Dyson. The Englishman nipped Lowe's Fernandez Racing's Adrian Fernandez on the final lap of the session, a 1:34.670 (115.906 mph). Fernandez was 0.541 seconds adrift in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b that he is driving with Luis Diaz. The pairing won the first three rounds of the season and own a hefty lead in the championship.
After the two P2 cars, Intersport Racing's Jon Field was third in P1 in the Lola B06/10-AER that he will drive with son Clint and Chapman Ducote. The car's best time was a 1:36.531 (113.671 mph). Autocon Motorsports' Lola-AER of Bryan Willman and Mike Lewis was next, followed by the brand new hybrid- powered Ginetta-Zytek 09HS from Corsa Motorsports with drivers Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johansson.
The car stands to be the first hybrid to compete in a major endurance race. Its fastest time was a 1:38.875 (110.976 mph), only a few days after arriving in the US from a shakedown in England last week.
"It's honestly a steep learning curve," Mowlem said. "Normally you would do these types of things in private and behind closed doors. Instead we're doing it in public. But we are making progress."
"Everything is just so new. We just don't know, at this point, what to expect," team owner Steve Pruitt said. "We're trying to take our time to make sure we do it right rather than run the risk of doing something wrong."
In GT2, Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister went quickest in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that he will share with Patrick Long. Bergmeister's best lap was a 1:48.215 (101.398 mph) as Porsche held the top two spots. Farnbacher Loles Racing's Marc Lieb was second in the entry that he will share with Wolf Henzler. In his first race at Miller Motorsports Park, Lieb posted a time of 1:49.025 (100.645 mph).
"It's fast, a real road course, and pretty smooth," Bergmeister said. "Lots of fast corners, which are fun. The Lizards had a very successful race here last year - the pole, a win for the No. 45 and a double podium. Hopefully we can repeat that success again this year."
The two Porsches were ahead of Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GT of Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer, who set the team's fastest lap of 1:49.232 (100.454 mph).
Guy Cosmo was the fastest driver in the new Challenge class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries. Cosmo, a winner in the Series' P2 class in 2005, turned a lap of 1:56.133 (94.485 mph) in the ORBIT Racing entry that he will drive with John Baker.
"It's a different mindset (going from prototypes to GT cars)," Cosmo said. "At the end of the day you're trying to do the best possible program you can. The cars really agree well with the Yokohamas, and we can put lots of miles on them."
Snow Racing's Martin and Melanie Snow, winners in the GTS class at the first Series race at Sebring in 1999, were second at 1:57.080 (93.721 mph). They were just ahead of a second ORBIT entry for Ed Brown and Bill Sweedler (1:57.749 and 93.188 mph).