All-Audi front row at Portland

Audi driver Rinaldo Capello secured pole position by the narrowest of margins for tomorrow's American Le Mans Series race at Portland. The Italian edged out team mate Frank Biela by just seven hundreths of a second as the Joest Racing-run R8s annexed the front row of the grid around the narrow, sweeping parkland road course

All-Audi front row at Portland

But while the Audis aim for their fourth straight ALMS victory, the lead factory Panoz Roadster of David Brabham fired a warning shot that things may well be closer in this race than they have been in recent weeks. The Australian was less than two tenths behind Capello's mark as the front-engined car made real progress from the free practice sessions to slash the Audi's advantage.

Capello, taking over qualfiying duties from team mate Allan McNish this weekend, also found his car much improved for the 20-minute afternoon session that counted. Through the four previous sessions the advantage had generally rested with Biela and Emanuele Pirro's sister car, as the No77 machine struggled slightly with marginal understeer on the treacherously slippery surface.

"We changed a lot from the practice sessions," explained Capello. "We had never really matched the speed of the sister car, so we basically copied its set-up and it was much better in qualifying. But the gap is so tiny, it really means very little."

While qualifying before a two and a half hour race is rarely crucial, the tight Portland track where overtaking is difficult did lend the qualifying session an extra significance. Brabham had tried his hardest to beat the Audis, and made a big leap forward from the practice sessions. "We thought maybe we could do it," he said, "but in the end it was just not quite enough.

Over half a second behind the leading trio, Johnny O'Connell planted the second Panoz on the outside of the second row, just ahead of the Rafanelli Lola-Judd team. Mimmo Schiattarella really pulled the stops out to grab fifth as the team enjoyed an upturn in fortunes, and beat Stefan Johansson's Reynard-Judd as the best privateer entry.

Series leaders JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller could manage no better than sixth place as the factory BMWs endured a torrid time. A lack of grip and traction was their main problem, with Finn Lehto commenting that "driving in the dry feels like driving in the wet for us, and there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it."

The final works entry, the lone Riley & Scott-run Cadillac of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor, will start the race from ninth place as it makes its first ALMS start since Sebring in March.


Qualifying
1 Rinaldo Capello/Allan McNish Joest Audi R8 1m04.312s
2 Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro Joest Audi R8 1m04.387s
3 David Brabham/Jan Magnussen Panoz LMP1 Roadster S 1m04.503s
4 Johnny O'Connell/Hiroki Katoh Panoz LMP1 Roadster S 1m05.309s
5 Mimmo Schiattarella/Didier de Radigues Rafanelli Lola-Judd B2K/10 1m05.394s
6 JJ Lehto/Jorg Muller Schnitzer BMW V12 LMR 1m05.582s
7 Stefan Johansson/Guy Smith Johansson Reynard-Judd 2KQ 1m05.758s
8 Bill Auberlen/Jean-Marc Gounon Schnitzer BMW V12 LMR 1m05.940s
9 Max Angelelli/Wayne Taylor GM Racing Cadillac Northstar 1m06.993s
10 Jon Field/Rick Sutherland Intersport Lola-Judd B2K/10 1m07.273s
11 Mark Simo/Jim Matthews Johansson Reynard-Judd 2KQ 1m08.138s
* first named drivers qualified car


GT classes
With no factory Corvettes on hand at Portland this weekend, the works Oreca-run Dodge Vipers had a free run to first and second place in the GTS class qualifying. Championship leader Olivier Beretta had little difficulty in taking pole position, but the sister car of American David Donohue did well to end up just a couple of tenths in arrears.

The GT class battle was much tighter, although the Dick Barbour Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R successfully managed to once again finish first and second in the final time sheets. Young German ace Dirk Muller took pole from team mate Sascha Maassen, but American Randy Pobst, who has won the last two rounds, pushed the duo hard in his similar Alex Job Racing car.

The best of the PTG BMW M3s was next up in the hands of Boris Said (filling in for the injured Hans Stuck), while Briton Johnny Mowlem hammered a good time out of the Pirelli-shod Team Skea Porsche to take sixth.

GTS
1 Olivier Beretta/Karl Wendlinger Oreca Dodge Viper GTS-R 1m12.321s
2 David Donohue/Tommy Archer Oreca Dodge Viper GTS-R 1m12.544s
3 Mike Fitzgerald/Vic Rice/Zak Brown Roock Porsche 911 GT2 1m14.467s

GT
1 Dirk Muller/Lucas Luhr Dick Barbour Porsche 911 GT3-R 1m15.155s
2 Sascha Maassen/Bob Wollek Dick Barbour Porsche 911 GT3-R 1m15.257s
3 Randy Pobst/Bruno Lambert Alex Job Porsche 911 GT3-R 1m15.269s

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