David Brabham took pole position for the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Friday with a record-breaking run in Patrón Highcroft Racing's Acura ARX-01b.
Brabham's lap of 1min 10.103secs put the green-and-blue prototype that he shares with Scott Sharp out front for the start of the American Le Mans Series finale as Acura swept the front row. Luis Diaz's Lowe's Fernandez Racing entry was only 0.099secs behind Brabham as Acura put itself in position to capture the LMP2 manufacturer championship in just its second year in the series. The Honda brand needs to sweep the podium to take the title.
"We're all out there to win but we're there for Acura as well," said Brabham, who has won four times in class this year but missed out on an individual championship shot after Sharp crashed early in Petit Le Mans, "They have given us fantastic cars for sure. If we can give them that clean sweep, it would be a nice thank-you for that effort."
Timo Bernhard qualified third the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder that he shares with Romain Dumas, and the duo will be looking for finale success after clinching the LMP2 championship two weeks ago at Road Atlanta.
"We never had a chance to see how competitive we could have been," Brabham said, reflecting on Highcroft's Petit disappointment, "but the team has shown a lot of character. The guys gave me a great car and this gives us a huge boost. With all the red flags we had in practice, we didn't know exactly where to go with the set-up. But, after two laps this morning, I think I had a good enough feeling for how the car needed to be. We've been able to do that a lot this year."
The top eight cars in Laguna qualifying were LMP2 cars, which have an advantage on the twisty circuit. Audi Sport North America's Emanuele Pirro was the fastest LMP1 driver, with a lap of 1min 11.264secs that outpaced team-mate Lucas Luhr by 0.561secs.
"I would say that, if I asked an engineer to design a circuit suitable for LMP2 cars, it would be something like this," said Pirro, who won at Monterey in 2001 and 2002, "Our car likes long straights, fast corners and grip. But, the longer the race, the better it is for us. Our cars were built for longer races, and the P2 cars are a little more fragile over a long distance."
Pirro, who is facing up to the end of his Audi ALMS career, will share his R10 with newcomer Christijan Albers.
"We didn't start very well early and the car wasn't very nice at all, but we went to a standard set-up and I can say now the car is very enjoyable to drive around here," he reported, "Maybe it's my last race, but I don't know yet. When I finished my single-seater career in F1, I had a very long career behind me, so it could have been a good time to stop. Then I went to Audi and we had 15 really beautiful years.
"The team kept the same people for 15 years and that helped tremendously. To continue racing at high levels, I would have to go and drive for someone else. There are a lot of competitive situations, but the price would be to leave a manufacturer from which I received a lot and also gave a lot."