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 Patrón 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.