Impending retirement can do things for a driver and, in Gil de Ferran's case, it served to inspire him to a landmark he has been chasing for much of his lengthy motorsport career.

In his final race as a driver at Road America, the Brazilian finally claimed pole position at a track he ranks among the very best, as de Ferran Motorsports continued its dominating run in the American Le Mans Series.

The owner-driver turned in a lap of 1min 48.216secs in qualifying for the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase to ensure that the de Ferran Motorsports XM Acura ARX-02a will start from the overall pole for the fourth straight event and leave de Ferran and team-mate Simon Pagenaud in position to go for a record fifth straight overall victory.

de Ferran out-qualified Patr?n Highcroft Racing's David Brabham by 0.823secs after announcing last week that he will retire as a driver at the end of the season, having been fastest in each session over the weekend.

"We've really had a great run here since we unloaded the car," de Ferran said, "It has been pretty good. The credit for the pole position has to go to the engineers, though. They have done a lot of work - analysing the track, looking at the mistakes we made last year. They have come up with a set-up that has been pretty good. We have been playing with it, making small adjustments."

After failing to record points in the season-opening race at Sebring and not finishing at St Petersburg, de Ferran and Pagenaud have been on a tear. Their first victory came at Long Beach in April and they haven't lost since. They also have pulled to within nine points of the consistent Brabham and Scott Sharp for the P1 championship lead.

"For me, this is one of my favourite race tracks that I have been to in my whole career," said de Ferran, who was third in 1997's CART race at the circuit, "To be here on pole for the last time I will be driving at Road America is great. They don't make race tacks like this anymore. It is a very long lap, with all sorts of different corners. It goes uphill and goes downhill, there are bumpy corners and smooth corners. For a driver, it is a great challenge."

Autocon Motorsports' Chris McMurry qualified third in class and seventh overall, turning in a best time of 1min 53.649secs in the Lola B06/10-AER that he will share with Bryan Willman.

Marino Franchitti gave Dyson Racing its first LMP2 pole position, and the first in the American Le Mans Series after breaking Lowe's Fernandez Racing's six-race streak with a lap of 1min 51.010secs in the Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe that he will co-drive with Butch Leitzinger. The two already have a victory to their credit this season, two rounds ago at Lime Rock Park.

The Scot's best lap was his first flying effort, and the time stood for the full 20 minutes as he bested Adrian Fernandez and the Mexican's Acura ARX-01b by 0.212secs. Fernandez and co-driver Luis Diaz still have a 51-point lead on Franchitti and Leitzinger in the class championship, however.

"I think I used the front tyres - overdrove on a few corners - on the first run," said Franchitti, whose only other pole position came at Sebring in 2004 driving a Nissan-powered Lola P2, "In the second run, I almost did the same thing. There have a been a lot of close laps. It is a great competition out there."

The top four cars in LMP2 on Saturday were within 0.912secs, with Franchitti's Dyson team-mate Guy Smith, who suffered a broken suspension on his Mazda-powered Lola, qualifying third at 1min 51.832secs in the car that he will drive with Chris Dyson. The first year of the Dyson-Mazda partnership has been improving steadily throughout the season, responding to the strength of the Lowe's Fernandez Acura and the recent addition of Team Cytosport's Porsche RS Spyder, which Klaus Graf qualified sixth overall Saturday.

"After Sebring, it was a turning point, as we were in the infancy of our programme," Franchitti said, "We got a fast lap in St Pete and finally the win at Lime Rock, but really we are taking it step-by-step."

Joey Hand gave BMW its first American Le Mans Series pole position in eight years as Rahal Letterman Racing locked out the front row in GT2 with its new M3s. Hand, driving with Bill Auberlen, set a fastest lap of 2min 06.950secs to hold a 0.123secs gap to team-mate Dirk Muller.

"I told my wife before I flew out that something just felt good about coming here," Hand said, "I was really good in Atlantics and ran well here with Bill in 2006. It comes down to preparation and testing we've done. The Dunlop guys have been working really well with us. We've rolled out of the truck very fast. I'm personally very excited."

Hand and Auberlen were GT2 runners-up the last time BMW raced at Road America during the 2006 season, but led Flying Lizard Motorsports' J?rg Bergmeister late before the Porsche pulled away with its power on the long straights. The progression on the M3 motor since then has been significant, although the strong point still remains its handling through corners - of which there are 14 at Road America.

"This is a place that has long straightaways, but there are corners that lead to those," Hand confirmed, "If I can be 2mph quicker than the competition, then that's our advantage. We're strong rolling through the corners and release it through the exit. We're trying to take advantage of that."

Bergmeister was the fastest non-BMW in qualifying and sat third with a lap of 2min 07.362secs. He and Patrick Long, winners at Road America in 2005 and 2006, have won five straight races in class and can set a record with a sixth win on Sunday.

Guy Cosmo earned his second straight pole position in the Challenge class with a lap of 2min 16.098secs for ORBIT Racing. Cosmo, who won at Road America in Star Mazda during the 2002 season, is driving the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry with John Baker.

"It was hairy out there and pretty exciting," the former LMP2 winner and Mid-Ohio Challenge pole-sitter said, "I don't want to say I'm not well-versed with GT cars, but when I try to push I'm still used to doing it in a prototype. I got off a little at the Kink but managed not to wad it up. The ORBIT guys did a great job of preparing the car. It's nice to qualify the car and be fastest again."

Martin Snow put Snow Racing's Porsche second on the grid in the car that he and wife Melanie have taken to victory in two of three Challenge races this year. As a result, they hold the championship lead ahead of Road America and the final race of the season in two weeks at Mosport. Bill Sweedler qualified ORBIT Racing's second Porsche third in class.

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