Neel Jani will go down in the history books as the final overall pole-sitter in American Le Mans Series history, as the Swiss driver stormed to the top spot for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans.
Driving the No. 12 Lola B12/60 Toyota, Jani reeled off a best lap of 1:09.254 in qualifying Friday at Road Atlanta. He outran the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c of Lucas Luhr by a considerable 1.143 seconds.
It marked Jani’s second consecutive Petit Le Mans pole as the Anglo-Swiss squad searches for a repeat victory in the 1,000-mile/10-hour enduro tomorrow.
“We’ve seen many times in qualifying that we were quicker than [Muscle Milk] but we’ve seen that in the races, it’s a different game,” said Jani, who will share driving duties with Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld.
“Especially with the GTCs, the safety cars, etc. The visibility in our car is a bit difficult compared to the open car. Everything adds up. That means the race is always close.”
While having wrapped up the P1 title at Baltimore, Luhr and co-driver Klaus Graf, along with Romain Dumas, will be looking for their 9th win of the year on Saturday, in what could be a mega two-way battle for top honors.
Starting third overall and first in P2 will be the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Anthony Lazzaro, thanks to Brabham’s 1:12.668 lap time.
However, it was not the quickest in class, as Ryan Briscoe clocked a 1:12.490 late in the 15-minute session but subsequently stopped on track after running out of fuel. It brought out a red, which eliminated the Australian’s best time.
As a result, Briscoe and co-drivers Scott Tucker and Marino Franchitti will line up second in class, ahead of Level 5’s No. 552 entry of Guy Cosmo, Peter Dumbreck and Jonny Kane in third.
Dane Cameron took his second consecutive PC pole and third in four races, storming to a 1:14.955 lap time in his PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09.
Cameron outpaced the No. 9 RSR Racing machine of Bruno Junqueira by 0.165 seconds, with the No. 05 CORE autosport entry of Tom Kimber-Smith completing the top-three.
PR1 and CORE head into tomorrow’s race tied on points in the teams’ championship, with Cameron’s co-driver Mike Guasch holding a 11-point lead in the drivers’ title race.