Gil de Ferran's retirement tour is becoming more impressive with every race, as the 41-year old veteran, coming off a dominating pole position and race win at Mid-Ohio last weekend, recorded a second straight American Le Mans Series pole with fastest time on the legendary four-mile Road America circuit.
The 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion blistered the tarmac with a lap of 1min 48.216secs in qualifying for Sunday's Time Warner Road Race Showcase feature, but later admitted he was driving to a sub-1min 48secs lap, only to make a late mistake that cost him a chance at the track record.
The pole position was the sixth overall in seven ALMS races this year for the de Ferran Motorsports team. Regular team-mate Simon Pagenaud has three, de Ferran two, and current IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon one as the dark blue Acura has proven to be the one to beat. The de Ferran contingent will now attempt to set another ALMS record on Sunday with a fifth consecutive overall race win, having already captured victories at Long Beach, Utah, Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio.
“Our team feels very confident after four wins in a row, but we know the Highcroft team and the other LMP1 teams are very strong and capable of winning here," de Ferran admitted, "However, the Acura was good right off the trailer on Friday, and our engineering crew needs to take the credit for this pole position today.
"Simon and I have improved the car's set-up a little, but the team was really close in coming to Road America with a proper set-up. They all did a great job leading up to the race and that made my job much easier. There was a lot of analysis of the track and past races, and so the package coming into this weekend was already really strong - we have just been tweaking and making it better since the first practice."
de Ferran and Pagenaud had earlier topped the timesheets in both practice sessions and were delighted to celebrate the team's fourth consecutive pole, especially as the session allowed de Ferran to add another achievement to his CV.
“It's great to be on pole with what will be my last driver appearance here,” the Brazilian said, “I just love this circuit - it's one of my favourites in the world, as I don't think they build road circuits like this anymore. I had never won the pole here before, although I was close in CART, so this is a thrill today. I'm having a fantastic time and it's great to be starting at the front, but we don't expect an easy ride in the race tomorrow."