Sonoma, July 16, 2005
Today's twenty-minute American Le Mans Series qualifying session for
the Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma took place under
extreme heat conditions. Outside air temperature was 101 degrees and
the track temperature was a fiery 145 degrees. Despite the debilitating
conditions, JJ Lehto, qualifier for the No. 1 Audi R8, managed to break
last year's qualifying record set by his teammate Marco Werner, but found
himself shy by 0.073 of a second from pole setter Andy Wallace from
Dyson Racing. The No. 2 Champion Racing Audi R8 driven by Emanuele
Pirro also beat last year's qualifying record but will start fourth tomorrow
on the grid.
Defending race and series champions JJ Lehto and Marco Werner,
teammates in the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi R8, are on a two-race
winning streak in the Audi, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the
New England Grand Prix two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park. Lehto is also
going for his fourth career American Le Mans victory at Infineon Raceway.
He won last year with Werner in the Audi R8, in 2001 with Jorg Muller in a
BMW M3 GTR and in 1999 with Steve Soper in a BMW V12 LMR.
The No. 2 Champion Racing Audi R8 of Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela
posted the fastest time during two of three practice sessions but opted to
qualify on race tires set up for tomorrow's expected cooler temperatures
versus a different set of tires that might have given them a faster time but
not the longevity needed for the 2:45 minute race. The duo has yet to
achieve a victory in the first five rounds of the American Le Mans Series
and anxiously looks forward to tomorrow's race to showcase their
"We had some very good sessions prior to qualifying and then during
qualifying the balance of the car shifted too much," said Graham Taylor,
Race Engineer for the No. 2 Audi R8. "We wanted to compete for the front
row but it was a difficult choice for tires because qualifying was at 4:00
p.m. and the race will start tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. and there is going to
be something like 30 degrees difference in track temperature. I do believe
we have an excellent race car and we proved at Lime Rock that we can
make the right strategy calls."
The Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by
Ravenswood Winery is set for 11:00 a.m. PDT Sunday at Infineon
Raceway in Sonoma, CA. CBS Sports will have television coverage from
3:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing and
Scoring can be found at www.americanlemans.com.
"We had a lot of problems yesterday with the car. A lot of under steering
and we were out of balance so we have been working really hard since
then to correct the problems. I do think we chose the right tires for the
race. For sure they were not the best for the qualifying but they will work
for the race. They will give us good consistency. We still will need to work
during tomorrow's practice session on set-up but no one can deny that
today's qualifying time was very good."
"I watched the qualifying session from the outside of the track at the
Carousel. I didn't know the lap times but I could see that JJ was pushing
hard. It was close but not enough to get the pole but still, he did a great
job. It's not a shame to be second."
"I think after the three good practice sessions we had we cannot say we
are happy with today's qualifying time. The car has been very good but we
chose different tires for the qualifying session. The problem is that
tomorrow morning it will be much cooler so we had to find a compromise
between today's heat and tomorrow's cooler temperatures. In the end
though, we will have a good tire for tomorrow's race."
"The qualifying times are very close so I am a little disappointed with the
position. I was not expecting at all to do as fast of a time as I did. We
made a tire choice in function for the race, not the qualifying session. I still
believe that our tire choice is a good choice for the race and we have a
good shot for the win."