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De Ferran Acura takes another pole

De Ferran Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud dominated qualifying for the second round of the American Le Mans Series at St Petersburg, leading an Acura one-two-three.

Pagenaud took provisional pole from Highcroft's Scott Sharp - who was carrying out the qualifying duties normally performed by team-mate David Brabham - early in the prototype session and then extended his advantage to nearly a second.

The result gave De Ferran a second straight pole after Scott Dixon had topped the Sebring grid for the team.

"Today the car is absolutely fantastic," said Pagenaud. "After practice I said 'don't change anything, it's going to be okay'. We put new tyres on and the car was amazingly fast in the first few laps."

Only 17 cars took part in qualifying, a record low for the ALMS. The championship has been hit hard by the economic crisis during the winter, with teams pulling out across all four classes. The two prototype classes have only three entries apiece at St Petersburg, and there are no GT1 cars at all.

Luis Diaz took third overall and LMP2 pole for Fernandez Acura, ahead of the two Dyson Lola-Mazdas. Guy Smith eventually took fourth from team-mate Marino Franchitti and narrowed the gap to Diaz to 0.286 seconds by the end of the session.

Chapman Ducote was a distant sixth in the Intersport Lola, the only other prototype in the field.

Jaime Melo put the Risi Ferrari on GT2 pole, beating Wolf Henzler's Farnbacher Loles Porsche by 0.3s.

"This is a really tough track and it's really important to start from pole," said Melo. "I didn't get a very good lap but it was enough to get pole. It's a track where you have to take so many risks, especially in qualifying."

The new Rahal Letterman BMWs showed much better form at St Petersburg than they had at Sebring, with Joey Hand and Dirk Muller taking third and fourth places in class, ahead of Patrick Long's Flying Lizard Porsche.

Pos  Cl   Drivers                Car                       Time
 1.  P1   De Ferran/Pagenaud     Acura ARX 02a             1:03.776
 2.  P1   Brabham/Sharp          Acura ARX 02a             1:04.722
 3.  P2   Fernandez/Diaz         Acura ARX-01B             1:05.178
 4.  P2   Dyson/Smith            Lola B09 86 Mazda         1:05.464
 5.  P2   Leitzinger/Franchitti  Lola B09 86 Mazda         1:05.666
 6.  P1   Field/Field/Ducote     Lola B06/10               1:09.044
 7.  GT2  Melo/Kaffer            Ferrari 430               1:12.892
 8.  GT2  Henzler/Werner         Porsche 911 RSR           1:13.173
 9.  GT2  Hand/Auberlen          BMW E92 M3                1:13.267
10.  GT2  Mueller/Milner         BMW E92 M3                1:13.458
11.  GT2  Bergmeister/Long       Porsche 911 RSR           1:13.465
12.  GT2  Farnbacher/James       Panoz Esperante           1:14.109
13.  GT2  Murry/Robertson        Doran Ford GT-R           1:14.281
14.  GT2  Gigliotti/Curran       Chevrolet Riley Corvette  1:14.633
15.  GT2  Feinberg/Hall          Dodge Viper               1:15.938
16.  GT2  Sutherland/Phinney     Panoz Esperante           1:15.996
17.  GT2  Law/Neiman             Porsche 911 RSR           1:18.592

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