by Chris Hayes

Penske Porsche driver Timo Bernhard, the defending LMP2 class champion, fought off a relentless onslaught from the Acura challengers to seize pole position for the third round American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach, California.

Bernhard wrestled his Porsche RS Spyder around the bumpy street circuit en-route to a lap-record-breaking pole time of 1 minute 11.330 seconds, over half a second quicker than the track record. At times the German was almost touching the concrete wall as he blitzed the 1.97mile temporary street circuit.

"I know I was close to the wall a couple of times, but I could put this car exactly where I wanted it to go," relished the 27-year-old after taking his 11th ALMS pole.

"We weren't sure how the top five or six positions would sort out as no one got a clear lap yesterday, and the track was very slippery. We made some adjustments to the car, and I had four clear laps during qualifying - I am pleased for the team that their hard work turned into an overall pole."

Bernhard was locked in a fierce battle throughout the qualifying session with Luis Diaz's Fernadez Racing Acura ARX-01b. The Mexican just missed out on pole by a tenth of a second but insisted afterwards that he could have taken the top-spot had it not been for a red flag on one of his hot-laps.

The Porsche-Acura battle between Bernhard and Diaz characterised the session with the sister Penske Porsche in the hands of Patrick Long engaged in combat with the Acuras of David Brabham and Christian Fittipaldi.

Patrick Long and team-mate Sascha Maassen eventually wound up fourth fastest splitting the Acura's of Brabham and Fittipaldi respectively.

The Penske duo were pleased to put the nightmare of St. Petersburg behind them when they were penalised and docked points for causing a collision with Butch Leitzinger in the dying laps.

"Although Sascha and I are not off to the best season start - failing to finish the 12 Hours of Sebring and losing championship points after being penalized at St. Petersburg - we were pleased with our fourth-place qualifying position," said Long, the only American Porsche factory driver.

"Driving this car is much different than the Porsche 911 I drove here last year, but I felt pretty good by the end of the session."


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