A year after helping Patr?n Highcroft Racing score a landmark class victory on the streets of Long Beach, David Brabham claimed the overall pole for the 2009 running of the Tequila Patr?n-backed event.

Driving the Highcroft Racing Acura bearing the event sponsor's colours, Brabham produced a lap of 1min 11.627secs to out-pace de Ferran Motorsports' Gil de Ferran by just 0.072secs and claim his and the team's first LMP1 pole, bettering Lucas Luhr's class record by 0.138secs in the process.

"It was the best the car has been handling this year," Brabham reported, "but I was very surprised we were quicker than the Audi's [record]. The track really gripped up a lot. It made it much more fun because you could really stick the car deep in the corners.

Brabham took a dramatic LMP2 class victory in 2008 by pulling off a daring last-lap pass of Penske Racing's Romain Dumas, but knows that, with passing tough around the tight Long Beach course, starting at the front is a better proposition for overall success.

"Gil was getting closer and closer to my time and really hanging it out - it was good to watch on TV," the Australian reflected, "He got really close, but I am delighted for the team and Patr?n, who are sponsoring the race this weekend, that we were able to grab the pole. It is our first pole for the year so that is a great start to the weekend.

"On the final lap, when Gil spun, I was actually on a faster lap that would have been pretty close, but the team told me to back off to save the tyres for the race tomorrow. Today's result shows the competitiveness between the two teams, but it is great for an all-Acura front row in their home town. I felt like I had laid down a good time, so we sat and waited to see if anybody was going to get close at the end and made sure we were on track in case that happened. I got pretty close last year to getting pole but made a mistake when I was three-tenths of a second up. It's great to come back and get the job done this year."

de Ferran, a three-time pole winner at Long Beach in his CART days, appeared to have a good shot at knocking Brabham off pole before a late-session spin that caused rear bodywork damage to the back of the navy blue Acura.

"Frankly I'm quite pleased with the way qualifying went," the Brazilian owner-driver admitted, "We made a choice on the set-up of the car and tyres that we knew would be tough for qualifying, but would hopefully help us for the race tomorrow. The fact that we were only a few hundredths of a second away from pole is a good thing.

"Obviously, it would have been nice to be on the pole again - we came up a little short, but we're looking forward to a good race tomorrow."

Adrian Fernandez qualified third overall, and first in LMP2, giving Acura a sweep of the top three places on the grid. The Mexican's time of 1min 13.134secs in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b bettered Dyson Racing's Guy Smith by just 0.244secs, suggesting that Fernandez and Luis Diaz, who are searching for their third straight class win to open the season, might have a fight on their hands.

"It was really close at the end," Fernandez admitted, "We had a good gap to the Dyson team and thought we were okay, so we decided to stop and save the tyres for the race, but it got too close at the end with them closing up to us. It was good for the competition but we were sweating a little bit at the end.

"The car was looser than I would have liked. We were really pushing in the morning and made some changes and, with the conditions, the car was a little loose. We needed to make a change to go faster, and I could see the track was getting better. It was important to save the tyres for the race, but we may have to rethink that strategy for the future because it was really close. The race should be quite exciting tomorrow."

Dyson enjoyed its best Long Beach qualifying effort to date, with Smith and Butch Leitzinger second and third in class in their BP Mazda Lola Coupes.

"Mechanical issues prevented us from running many laps yesterday," Smith recounted, "We put those right today, had a good practice this morning and the car showed its pace. We came here with a completely new set-up with the #16 car. Peter Weston, our chief engineer did a fantastic job of getting the car working well, and we made a couple of changes between practice and qualifying and the car improved again."

The Briton put his B09/86 as close as either of the Dyson coupes have been to the Fernandez/Diaz machine all season, and was 0.385secs ahead of Leitzinger's sister entry.

Olivier Beretta earned another place in the American Le Mans Series' history books with the final GT1 pole for Corvette Racing in North America. The Monagasque's lap of 1min 17.952secs was the 23rd pole for the five-time class champion, both series records. Beretta was 0.192secs better than the sister Corvette of Johnny O'Connell.

"I ran my best time and thought that my next lap would be even better - and then we had the red flag," Beretta said, "After I restarted, the times were not so quick because the tyres had cooled down and, on a street course, you have to regain the momentum.

"Now the most important thing is to bring the two cars home safely in the race, and that is our first priority. We need to win the race, that is the second goal. The crew and everyone at Corvette Racing have worked hard for ten years to bring us to where we are today. Our mechanics, engineers, and drivers are a very strong package, but it will be the last ALMS race in GT1, and I hope we win."

Corvette Racing will bow out of GT1 competition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June and is scheduled to return with an ALMS debut in GT2 at Mid-Ohio later in the year.

Wolf Henzler was awarded the GT2 pole in the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR after Jaime Melo's Ferrari F430 GT was excluded in post-qualifying inspections due to a ride height violation.

Henzler's time of 1min 20.369secs was 0.108 seconds quicker than Patrick Long in similar Flying Lizard Motorsports' Porsche, and sets the German marque up for a possible first GT2 victory at Long Beach.

The Farnbacher Loles crew pulled an all-nighter Thursday following a crash that had the crew replace a large majority of the bodywork and components on the Porsche's rear end.

"I was very gratified for the team and the crew who didn't sleep all night, repairing the car after our practice crash," Henzler said, "Sometimes the rules work for you and sometimes they work against you, but we are just happy with this result. The lap I turned was the fastest I could go as I was sideways out of many corners."

Melo had turned a lap of 1min 20.111secs in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will share with Pierre Kaffer, and appeared to have the measure of the various Porsches.

"Actually, I didn't expect to be that quick after my first run," the Brazilian said before learning of his car's disqualification, "I did a 20.8, which was a good time, and then the red flag came out so I thought I could cool down the tyres a little bit and try again.

"The car was getting better and better all the time and, to be honest, if I'd done one more lap, I could have done a bit better, but I didn't want to take the risk with the car or the tyres. We did a little change during the session to the front bump and that helped the car over the kerbs, and Pierre is also happy with the car. Now he can now really drive it the way he wants to, the way it suits him. We are both confident."

The Tom Milner/Dirk Muller Rahal Letterman Racing BMW E92 M3 was promoted to third in class following the Risi Ferrari's exclusion.


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