Neel Jani gave Rebellion Racing pole position for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race.
The Swiss’ pole time of 1:12.600 formed the climax of the qualifying session as he bounced from the rear of the three-car LMP1 field to the front with a single lap. Jani trailed both the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD of Lucas Luhr and Guy Smith’s Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda early in the 15 minute session for the P1 and P2 cars. However, taking nearly a second off his own time Jani leapt to the provisional pole.
He then took another seven tenths from his best time to take it out of reach of Guy Smith, who briefly held pole himself for Dyson Racing, despite a disrupted beginning to the session after completing a single lap before returning the pits as the team got back on track following an engine change after morning practice.
Smith was able to keep Jani’s margin down with a best lap of 1:13.282 but lost the opportunity to do any better when he slid wide into the tyres on the outside of turn eight on his final lap. Graf will line up third fastest, joined on the second row by the best of the P2 cars – the #551 Level 5 Motorsport HPD ARX-03b qualified by Ryan Briscoe.
Of the four P2 cars only Briscoe was able to out-pace the bulk of the PC field, headed by the #9 RSR Racing entry driven in the session by Bruno Junquiera.
Unlike the sessions for the other classes Junquiera’s best lap came relatively early on – with nine minutes still to go. However, as he crossed the line his effort of 1:16.167 gave him pole by nearly a second over Colin Braun, qualifying the lone CORE Autosport entry in the event. From that moment on the story of the session became Braun and the rest of the class trying to match Junquiera’s time. The prize on offer only grew when Junquiera pulled into the pits early, removing his right to reply as his margin was cut in to again and again.
At first Braun only chipped into the lead, moving from 1:16.753 to 16.734 with three consecutive laps. The slow progression allowed Kyle Marcelli to jump ahead into second before Braun found a half second of pace to leapfrog back into second and within a tenth of Junquiera’s target.
The young American could we have completed the come back, had he not run wide at the hairpin on the following lap, forcing him to abort that lap and scuppering any chance of a final lap. Luis Diaz did improve late on, moving into third place ahead of Marcelli.
Dominic Farnbacher gave the SRT Viper its first ALMS pole position at the end of a GT session that he and Jonathon Bomarito in the sister #93 car dominated the session, one holding pole position for almost the entire session.
Only Townsend Bell, in the Team West/AJR Ferrari was able to break the Viper domination, briefly snatching the top time between Farnbacher’s laps as the times tumbled rapidly down to a class pole time of 1:18.865. For another brief moment in a breathless session the two Vipers were one-two when another Farnbacher improvement pushed Bomarito out of pole position.
In the final standings the two Vipers were split by Bryan Sellers’ Team Falken Tire Porsche as the top eight in class – including Bill Auberlen and the pair of Corvette Racing cars split by four-hundredths – were separated by less than half a second.
Jeroen Bleekemolen won the pole in GTC. The Dutchman was the last man to cross the line in the session that started the qualifying afternoon, running a time of 1:22.850 in the Alex Job Racing #22 to depose Sean Edwards from pole position.