McNish holds onto pole after Audi battle

Allan McNish will start Sunday's 10th round of the American Le Mans Series at Las Vegas from pole position as he attempts to wrap up the championship with one round to go. The 31-year-old Scot traded fastest times with Audi driver Frank Biela before bagging pole on his fifth flying lap

McNish holds onto pole after Audi battle

"You have to go out of the blocks pretty quickly at this track," said McNish, who shares his Audi R8 prototype with Rinaldo Capello. "Frank was a bit quicker than me initially, so I had to push a bit harder."

Biela, who ended up two tenths shy of McNish's time, has been close to his team mate all weekend. "This circuit seems to suit Frank's driving style," said McNish. "You need to be smooth and clean."

A victory for McNish and Capello would give the former the title irrespective of where third-placed Jorg Muller finishes in the BMW he shares with JJ Lehto. McNish leads Capello by 10 points and Muller by 16. Although there are a maximum of 28 points up for grabs at each race, the dropped-score rule means that the BMW driver must finish third to improve his points tally, while has two low scores to drop.

Third fastest was the Panoz of Jan Magnussen, who went ahead of BMW driver JJ Lehto right at the end of the 20-minute session. But the Dane, who partners David Brabham in the number one LMP Roadster S, was nearly a second off the pace.

Panoz race director Dave Price said he doubted that his lead crew could take the fight to the Audis as they did in the previous round of the championship at Laguna Seca earlier this month. "It's going to be difficult to keep up with McNish," said the Englishman. "He was doing one 1m06s lap after another."

Lehto was only a tenth shy Magnussen, while Johnny O'Connell was a further half a second behind in fifth place on the grid. First privateer was Mimmo Schiattarella in the Rafanelli team's Lola-Judd.

Dodge Viper driver Olivier Beretta claimed his fifth GTS class pole position of the year, just three tenths of a second ahead of Tom Coronel. The Dutchman, who is making his ALMS debut in the Carsport Holland entry, reckoned he could have been on pole with a big more luck. "I was trying really hard," said last year's Formula Nippon champion. "On my first lap I went straight through the chicane, set my time on the second lap and then went across the grass trying to improve on my third lap."

The two factory Chevrolet Corvettes were only fourth and fifth in class, Justin Bell ahead of Ron Fellows, as the squad concentrated on its race set up.
Corvette programme manager Doug Fehan said: "We've proved we've got the fastest car in the class with four poles already this year. We're more interested in trying to win the race on Sunday."

Lucas Luhr firmed up his provisional pole in the GT class. The Dick Barbour Racing Porsche driver was three tenths ahead of Randy Pobst in a similar 911 GT3-R run by the Alex Job team. Sascha Maassen was third in the second Barbour car.

1 Allan McNish (Audi R8) 1m06.628s
2 Frank Biela (Audi R8) 1m06.827s
3 Jan Magnussen (Panoz LMP Roadster S) 1m07.527s
4 JJ Lehto (BMW V12 LMR) 1m07.837s
5 Johnny O'Connell (Panoz LMP Roadster S) 1m08.242s
6 Mimmo Schiattarella (Lola-Judd B2K/10) 1m08.554
GTS Olivier Beretta (Dodge Viper GTS-R) 1m14.153s; GT Lucas Luhr (Porsche 911 GT3-R) 1m17.838s

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