Gil de Ferran is on the pole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – again – after the former Indianapolis 500 winner emerged as fastest qualifier for the second straight year for the Acura Sports Car Challenge in the de Ferran Motorsports entry.
de Ferran turned a fastest lap of 1min 09.443secs in the XM Acura ARX-02a that he has driven to victory the last three races with team-mate Simon Pagenaud. The Brazilian was a slim 0.069 seconds and less than 0.1 mph faster than David Brabham in Patrón Highcroft Racing's Acura.
de Ferran and Pagenaud trail Brabham and Scott Sharp by just 13 points in the P1 championship.
It was a dramatic session for the two-time CART champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner. He didn't record his first flying lap until halfway through the 20-minute session.
“We had a big vibration and my radio was not working - I was concerned that we had a wheel loose,” de Ferran said. “So we took the wheels off but we couldn't change the tires in qualifying. It was very hard to see what was wrong but went back out there.”
It was a good thing. de Ferran topped Brabham on his fourth lap for his first pole position of the season. Now the focus shifts to turning that into his first victory at the circuit in any series. He was second in CART twice and was leading last year before a mid-race retirement.
“Mid-Ohio has been such a big part of my career,” said de Ferran, who also announced he will retire as a driver at season's end. “It is a track that I enjoy tremendously. It is extremely challenging. The grip conditions this weekend is very poor. The track is very, very low on grip but it is changing rapidly as we keep running. It is going to be pedal-to-the-metal this weekend.”
Luis Diaz earned his third pole position of the season in LMP2 as the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b stayed perfect in qualifying this season. Diaz was third overall at 1min 10.464secs in the car that he will share with Adrian Fernandez.
The duo have won four of five class races this year, having lost out to Dyson Racing three weeks ago at Lime Rock Park.
“I'm very happy to be here and get the pole for Acura,” Diaz said. “It is a very special race for the whole company. We worked very hard after our last race at Lime Rock. We were expecting a close race with the Dyson team and that was the way it was. It was good to put some good laps together. We are expecting a tough race tomorrow but hope to be there in the end and earn some points.”
Diaz had to chase down and pass Chris Dyson in one of Dyson Racing's Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes about midway through the session. The two teams have gone back and forth the last four rounds. This week saw the addition of Team Cytosport's Porsche RS Spyder, where Klaus Graf qualified fourth in class. He was just a tick behind Dyson Racing's second prototype of Butch Leitzinger, who won at Lime Rock with Marino Franchitti.