TEAM NEWS: Diaz Takes Lowe's Fernandez Acura To 3rd With Highcroft 5th, AGR 6th Friday

Photo by John Thawley TOOELE, UTAH -- After two consecutive overall pole positions, the Acura sports car teams had to settle for third, fifth and sixth Friday at the beautiful Miller Motorsports Park in qualifying for the fifth round of the 2007American Le Mans Series.

Last month, Dario Franchitti's pole run at the Long Beach Grand Prix and David Brabham's dramatic last- lap top qualifying spot at the Grand Prix of Houston gave Acura its first two sports-car pole positions as the teams entered Friday's qualifications on the 4.5-mile, 24-turn circuit southwest of Salt Lake City.

At the conclusion of the 25-minute session, the Penske Porsches of Timo Bernhard and Sasha Maassen grabbed the front row for Saturday's 2-hour, 45-minute feature, the Utah Grand Prix, set for 5 p.m. local time (MDT). Bernard's time of 2 minutes, 18.128 seconds was more than five seconds quicker than last year's LMP2 class pole, and three seconds better than the overall pole time in 2006.

However, in the early portion of qualifying, it looked like the Acura cars might make it three poles in a row as Bryan Herta in the No.26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a, Stefan Johansson in the No.9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a and Luis Diaz in the No.15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola jumped to the top of the speed charts. Each driver held the top slot during the first four laps before the Penske cars took over.

At the end, Diaz drove his machine to a time of 2:19.443 to notch the third starting position on Saturday's grid, followed by Johansson's time of 2:20.389 in fifth and Herta's 2:20.648 in sixth.

Saturday's American Le Mans Series race will be telecast Sunday at 1 p.m. (EDT) on CBS-TV.

LUIZ DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola 06/40) "I'm happy for the Lowe's Fernandez Acura team because we didn't have the testing here that some of the other teams were able to do. We used the first day and a half just to try different things. But I think we found some setups that will help us in the race. We have struggled in qualifying in recent races. So today's run was very good for our team. We have a great engineer in John Ward and his staff, and they have been working hard to get our Lowe's Acura very competitive for the rest of the season. I believe we can have a car that will race for a championship. Overall, I am very pleased with today's run."

STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "There is a fine edge with the tires and the car for qualifying. I drove very hard earlier on and I just couldn't get back to that type of run later in qualifying. Overall, we lost a lot of time yesterday in testing and we had to play `catch-up' today. David [Brabham] and I are very pleased with how the car performed today. We just wished we had some additional time yesterday so we could have worked on a few more settings. Considering the new team and the new Acura program, I am extremely happy with how this young team has performed. There is a lot of potential with the Highcroft team. I expect us to improve with each race. This program will be very competitive in the future. Heck, we've been in position to win our class in two races so far and we have one overall pole position. In just five races, that is impressive."

BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX- 01a): "I really don't know what happened to us in qualifying today. I went out and ran a good lap early. But that was about all we had today. I picked up some understeer and we couldn't get the car back to where we wanted it for qualifying. I think our XM Acura will be good in the race but we are a little confused on what went on here in qualifying. Those things happen. Marino [Franchitti] and I feel good about our car for the race."


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