Chris Dyson of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., qualified second in a Lola B09 Prototype (1:07:142/131.846 mph) while Simon Pagenaud of Indianapolis was third in a Honda ARX Prototype (1:07:228/131.677 mph).
Although impressive, all times were significantly slower than the all-time qualifying record set in 2008 by Italian driver Dindo Capello, who drove an Audi R10 diesel around the 10-turn, 2.45-mile Mosport circuit in 1 minute and 4.094 seconds, which translates into an average speed of 138.116 mph – scary fast.
The speed of the circuit was not lost on Graf, who will be partnered in Sunday’s race by Romain Dumas of Ales, France.
“Obviously, there is not much runoff (spaces where out-of-control cars can scrub off speed if they leave the racing surface),” Graf said in an interview. “The speed is so high – I don’t know what our average is but it’s way up there.
“Turns 1 and 2 and turn 8, you are flat out in sixth gear. That’s high, high speed. But the trade is that as race-car drivers, we love the challenge. But you have to stay on the black stuff (pavement) here.”
Graf was winning the Road America round of the nine-race ALMS season with just two turns of the last lap to go last Sunday when he was passed by Englishman Jonny Cocker – hence the motivation to go fast enough to win the pole Saturday and to win the race Sunday.
“We came so close (to winning) last week,” he said. “On the other hand, we were successful because we were on a very risky strategy and we beat some of our strongest competitors. So we lost, but we won as well. But if we make it two corners more, I`ll be a very happy man tomorrow.``
Sunday's feature race will go to the post at 3 p.m., with Grand Marshal Bobby Unser – who won the first Indy car race in Canada on July 1, 1967 – giving the command to fire up the engines. Twenty-nine cars are expected to start the race.
Sports-car racing of the American Le Mans Series variety is made up of four classes, running from the sleek Prototypes (cars designed especially for the race track) to the Grand Touring Challenge class – souped-up versions of automobiles that the buying public can purchase off the showroom floor that are entered by privateers rather than factories.
Two Canadians will be in Sunday`s race – Tony Burgess of Toronto, who will co-drive a Lola B06 Prototype with Johnny Mowlem of Berkshire, England (they will start the race fifth) and Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, who`s contesting the Prototype Challenge class with Chapman Ducote of Miami. They will start the race from ninth place.
The fastest car in the Prototype Challenge class was driven Saturday by Luis Diaz of Mexico City who turned a time of 1:11:455 (123.888 mph).In GT qualifying, Gianmaria Bruni of Rome won the pole in a Ferrari 430 with a time of 1:17:160 (114.728 mph) but because his co-driver, Jaime Melo of Brazil, fell ill and was unavailable to drive if needed, Bruni will have to start the race at the back of the field.
He will be partnered by Tony Vilander of Kankaanpaa, Finland, who was left without a drive when his regular partner, Pierre Kaffer of Salenstein, Switzerland, demolished the team’s other Ferrari 430 in a Saturday morning crash.
Kaffer was taken to the Lakeridge Health Centre in Bowmanville where he was treated and discharged. The car was withdrawn and shipped to the team’s headquarters in Houston, Tex., for repairs.
Second-fastest in GT qualifying was Joerg Bergmeister of Langenfeld, Germany, in a Porsche 911 (Patrick Long of Belleair, Fla., is the co-driver) with Tommy Milner of Leesburg, Va., third in a BMW (Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Fla., also aboard).
The fastest of the famous Corvette Racing team was Oliver Gavin of Yardley Hastings, England, who finished fourth in GT qualifying. Gavin, who has been partnered for many years by Olivier Beretta of Monte Carlo, is co-driving this weekend with Jan Magnussen of Roskilde, Denmark, while Beretta is sharing the second Corvette with Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga.
Corvette says the changes were made to shake up the team in an effort to improve its results. Observers were quick to point out that the team has not performed well since it dropped Ron Fellows of Mississauga from its lineup.
Fellows is in Montreal this weekend, driving in Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team.
The fastest car in the GT Challenge class was Bryce Miller of Summit, N.J., who drove a Porsche 911 around Mosport in 1:22:495 (107.308 mph), which is a record for that class. His partner, Luke Hines of Essex, England, in an effort to change the team’s previous poor luck, shaved his head down the middle so that one side was bald.
He attracted some attention.
Following the Saturday morning Ferrari mishap, there was a close call in Saturday afternoon practice when Scott Tucker of Leawood, Kan., driving a Prototype Challenge car, pulled out of the pits and directly into the path of last week`s winner, an on-the-throttle Prototype pilot Cocker.
The resulting collision damaged both cars but neither driver was injured.
CONOR DALY WINS STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP
Earlier Saturday, Conor Daly, the 18-year-old son of former Formula One and CART Indy car star Derek Daly, won the Star Mazda Series feature race and, with it, the 2010 series championship.Daly, of Noblesville, Ind., who earlier won his ninth pole position of the season, took the lead at the standing-start green light and was never headed. He easily held off Jorge Goncalvez of Venezuela and Connor De Phillippi of Murrieta, Calif., who finished second and third in the 45-minute timed race.
Canada was represented in the international field by Mikael Grenier of Stoneham, Que., who finished sixth, David Ostella of Maple, who was 10th and Mikhail Goikhberg of Toronto who finished 19th.
Proud-as-punch papa Derek Daly credited the Ontario Formula Ford Challenge Series for much of his son’s development as a driver.
“We made the decision two years ago to come to Canada to run with Brian Graham Racing so that Conor could better understand the engineering of a racing car, something he couldn’t get in the United States at that time.
“He was running the Skip Barber (national) Series in the U.S. at the same time but he wasn’t allowed to change the car (to suit his style). His season up here gave him a much better understanding of the way a racing car works and how to change or adjust it to his advantage and he won races and was successful.
“He also came to love Mosport (scene of many of the Formula Ford races) so he’s come back for more.”
Graham, of Innisfil, was almost as thrilled as the young driver’s father.
“To watch young fellows come through our program and to progress and to move up is so exciting,” he said.
“I’m really proud of the way the Ontario Formula Ford Series allows young drivers to grow and to learn. Unlike a lot of ‘spec’ series (like the Jim Russell), they have input and it goes from there.”Conor Daly, who’s won championships in every series he’s contested and seems to have a ticket on a rocket ship to somewhere, said he’s not sure – at the moment – where his future lies.
“The ‘Road to Indy’ program (Indy Lights) is obviously very attractive but there’s also a part of me that wants to represent America on the top step of the podium in Formula One. So, we’ll go to Road Atlanta (in October) and finish up the season and evaluate all the possibilities and go from there.”
CASTROL CANADIAN TOURING CAR SERIESLate in the day, Dave Ciekiewicz of Toronto finished first in the Super Touring Class of the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series race, which had to stopped for a lengthy cleanup after a big crash on the first lap eliminated four cars.
Kurt Langeveldt of Bowmanville won the Touring Car class.