AUSTIN, Texas — Competitors in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón had two extra days of testing to learn the new Circuit of The Americas. Friday, that work went down the drain, with official practice and qualifying held in rainy conditions at the 3.4-mile circuit in preparation for Saturday’s ALMS round of International Sports Car Weekend presented by Continental Tire.
Lucas Luhr captured his 22nd pole in P1 qualifying, running a lap of two minutes, 7.851 seconds (95.736 mph) in the No. 6 Pickett Racing Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03c. He and co-driver Klaus Graf – who have already wrapped up the P1 championship – will be seeking their sixth consecutive victory in Saturday’s two-hour, 45-minutes race that begins at 3:45 p.m. CT.
Luhr was joined by Marino Franchitti and Renger van der Zande in winning pole positions for the prototype classes for the race, Round 7 of 10 on the 2013 schedule.
The changing conditions proved a challenge for Luhr, whose team did not participate in the optional testing earlier in the week.
“There was no constant rain, so the track was getting drier and drier,” Luhr said. “Then when the track dried out, it got very greasy and you ended up overheating the tires.”
Chris McMurry qualified second in the No. 16 Dyson Racing Mazda/Thetford/Norcold Lola B12/60, 2:12.837 (92.143 mph). Third in the class was Andy Meyrick, in the debut of the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 coupe with Katherine Legge, 2:15.845 (90.103 mph).
With his team fastest overall in both days of unofficial testing, Marino Franchitti continued the momentum for Level 5 Motorsports, taking his third pole of the season and seventh straight this season for the team with a lap of 2:10.573 (93.741 mph) in the No. 552 Siemens/Alpine Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort HPD ARX-03b.
Franchitti was also challenged by the changing conditions.
“You needed the wet tire, because it wasn’t dry enough for slicks,” Franchitti said. “But the wets were wearing down pretty quickly, and I was just hanging on.”
Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Johannes van Overbeek and Anthony Lazzaro took the next two positions in P2, with Level 5 Motorsports’ Ryan Briscoe losing his right-rear wheel at the beginning of the session and failing to post a qualifying time.
Van der Zande captured his first ALMS pole in Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire (PC) qualifying, turning a lap of 2:17.865 (88.783 mph) in the No. 81 DragonSpeed dress-for-less.com ORECA FLM09.
“We knew we had a very fast car in the wet,” van der Zande said. “But in the end the track started drying and a lot of people started getting close, so we kept pushing.”
Ryan Dalziel took second with a lap of 2.18.929 (88.103 mph) in the No. 5 Starworks Popow Motorsport entry, followed by Kyle Marcelli in the No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA, 2:19.782 (87.565 mph).
Joey Hand wasn’t quite satisfied with the handling of the No. 55 BMW Team RLL Crown Plaza BMW Z4 GTE after two days of testing.
His outlook changed Friday when conditions changed drastically, with rain soaking the 3.4-mile circuit. Hand went out in the wet and ran a lap of 2:17.178 (89.227 mph) to capture the GT pole for Saturday’s race.
“The rain really played to the strengths of our car and tire,” said Hand, who won his first pole of the season and sixth of his career. “Today was the first time I ever saw the Michelin rain tire. Wow! We had a lot of rear grip. We were not the quickest car in the dry, but it was really strong in the wet.”
While co-driver Bill Auberlen won two GRAND-AM races for BMW earlier this year in Austin, this was Hand’s first visit to the circuit that opened with the United States Grand Prix Formula One race last November.
“I’m definitely digging this track,” Hand said. “It’s definitely a driver’s track. I got to learn it during the two days of testing, but when I went out there for the first time in the rain today, it was ‘where do I go now?’ But I found that the wet line here is pretty straightforward.”
In GT class qualifying, Joey Hand won his sixth career pole and second straight for the No. 55 Team RLL Crown Plaza BMW Z4 GTE with a lap of 2:17.178. He will co-drive with Bill Auberlen, fastest qualifier in the class for the most recent race at Baltimore.
Corvette Racing took the next two positions. Antonio Garcia ran a lap of 2:17.442 (89.056 mph) in the No. 3 Compuware C6 ZR1, followed by the team’s No. 4 entry driven by Oliver Gavin, 2:17.594 (88.957). The second BMW Team RLL entry took fourth, with John Edwards running a lap of 2:18.002 (88.694 mph) in the No. 56.
In GTC, Damien Faulkner captured his first pole of the season and seventh of his career with a lap of 2:27.816 (82.806 mph) in the No. 66 TRG Port Lavaca Group/Viper Exchange/Adobe Road Winery Porsche 911.
“It was a bit of a mixed day,” said Faulkner, who will co-drive with Ben Keating. “Nobody knew if the session would go ahead. We knew we were fast in the dry. It was a matter of doing a clean lap, and I made the first lap count. Fortunately, it was enough to get the first pole of the season.”