MONTAGNY, ANDRETTI GREEN TEAM SCORE 1st 2008 POLE
WITH NEW TRACK RECORD AT ROAD AMERICA FRIDAY
Third Straight LMP2 Pole For Acura, With Fernandez Second On The Grid
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Franck Montagny made his first visit to the picturesque Road America circuit a memorable one by driving the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car to the LMP2 class pole position Friday in qualifying for Saturday's Generac 500.
Montagny, a French driver with experience in both Formula One and 24 Hours of Le Mans , broke the LMP2 track record by more than one and a half seconds with a clocking of one minute, 47.345 seconds and a speed of 135.757 miles per hour, easily bettering the previous mark of 1:48.833 [133.901 m.p.h.], set last year by Romain Dumas.
Montagny, who'll team with young British driver James Rossiter in Saturday;s American Le Mans Series feature, recorded Andretti Green Racing's second American Le Mans Series pole with a solid performance Friday. Montagny quickly jumped to the top of the timing charts in the 20-minute session with a track-record at 1:48.028, followed by a 1:47.491 and then a 1:47.345.
Dario Franchitti won the first Andretti Green's ALMS pole last year at Long Beach.
Road America veteran Adrian Fernandez looked to be a strong challenger for Montagny's pole in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b, but had to settle for second in the LMP2 qualifying. Fernandez, a 12-time Road America starter in open-wheel and sports car competition, notched a best lap of 1:47.639 [135.386 m.p.h.].
David Brabham, a two-time race winner in 2008, took the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b to fourth on the LMP2 grid with a time of 1:47.774 [135.216 m.p.h.]. Brabham and teammate Scott Sharp will seek their third class win Saturday when the green flag drops at 5 p.m. (EDT) on the famed four-mile road course.
Former Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran, the Mid-Ohio pole winner, took his No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b to fifth in LMP2 qualifying at 1:48.160 [134.734 m.p.h.]. Young Simon Pagenaud will co-drive with de Ferran in Saturday's feature event.
Saturday's Generac 500 will be televised on SPEED-TV Sunday, August 10, at 2 p.m. EDT.
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "This track is very good. It's a proper road-racing track for America. It is closer to what we race in Europe. I didn't like the Lime Rock track and I thought Mid-Ohio was better. This circuit is even better than Mid-Ohio. Our XM Acura has been improving with each race for me, and I am getting used to the car and the team. I am really enjoying racing in the American Le Mans Series. This is the most fun I have had in racing. The atmosphere is so much different than in Europe. It is a friendly place to race. The XM team has been making very good changes with the car. James [Rossiter] is given us good feedback. I think he is a good driver and will help the team. I like our position on the front row and we'll have a good chance to win on Saturday."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We have been competitive from the time we unloaded the Lowe's Acura. Qualifying was good, but I wouldn't say it was perfect. I had some traffic and, through it didn't disturb me on my fast lap, I could not prepare for my out lap. The car had good balance and there was a lot of grip. This is a long race and I think we'll be in contention throughout the four hours."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Our speed in the last practice gave us a lot of hope for qualifying. That's because we tried a lot of different things in Thursday's testing and those things just didn't work. We went with a completely different setup today and it was the right direction. Now we have time to fine-tune the car for the race. That will help us."
GIL DE FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "We have been chasing the balance of the car the last two days. We just missed a bit in qualifying. It is amazing how close this car is to my old Indy car I drove here in 2000 and 2001. It feels so much like that old CART car. This Acura does brake better. I think we'll improve the car for the race."