Beretta Repeats as Portland Pole Winner
Corvette Driver Sets ALMS Record with 16th Career Pole as C6.Rs Qualify 1-2 for Portland Grand Prix
PORTLAND, Ore., July 29, 2005. - Corvette Racing driver Oliver Beretta won the GT1 pole at Portland International Raceway for the second straight year and the third time overall in qualifying today for the American Le Mans Portland Grand Prix. Beretta was the fastest qualifier for a record 16th time in his ALMS career, breaking a tie with his Corvette Racing teammate Ron Fellows for the most career poles in the series' history. The driver from Monaco also set the PIR qualifying record, lapping the 1.96-mile circuit in 1:08.193 (103.682 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. His time eclipsed the 1:09.981 mark he set one year ago in the Corvette C5-R
Johnny O'Connell was less than two-tenths of a second behind Beretta in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette as Corvette Racing's twin C6.Rs qualified first and second in the GT1 division. Following competition adjustments by the series, qualifying times for the top-five cars in the GT1 class were separated by less than three-quarters of a second.
Beretta needed only two laps at speed to set the mark.
"The Corvette Racing crew did a perfect job and the car was flying again," he explained. "I wanted to get a good time on my first lap to qualify the car, and then on my second lap I pushed a little bit harder to get a quicker time. I'm sure the third lap would have been even better, but unfortunately I had some traffic. The car was quick enough for the pole, but I felt that it could be even quicker on a clean lap.
"This year we are racing with the C6.R, which is an evolution of the C5-R we ran last season," Beretta noted. "Every race we are learning more, so every race we improve. They have modified the first chicane, which helped the lap time, too, so the combination of the new car and the new chicane made the lap time quicker than last year. The Corvette is the reference point, and I am very happy to drive the best car in the class."
Beretta and his teammate Oliver Gavin are second in the championship standings going into Saturday's 2-hour, 45-minute race, trailing O'Connell and Ron Fellows by 11 points.
"Like always, Olly did a perfect job setting up the car during practice," Beretta observed. "We want the same thing in the car and we always arrive at the same conclusion. It's very important that we drive in the same way, with the same style."
Beretta previously won poles at PIR in 2000 and in 2004. He scored back-to-back victories at the Portland track in 1999 and 2000, but it was Fellows and O'Connell standing on the top step of the podium last year in Portland.
"We had the fastest car in the class in every practice session," O'Connell said. "I'm very proud of the team's effort, and feel I got everything I could out of that qualifying lap."
After his first qualifying run in the 20-minute session, O'Connell was fourth on the GT1 speed chart. The No. 4 Compuware Corvette crew made changes to the car and sent him back out - and he promptly improved his lap time by nearly three-quarters of a second to take the second spot with eight minutes remaining in the session.
"The guys adjusted the tire pressure and the car was much better," O'Connell reported. "I'll go into the race feeling confident with both Corvettes running well. Ron and I have always run smart here and we'll do that again tomorrow. It's going to be a great battle; the races here often come down to pit stops and racing luck."
Recent rule changes have resulted in closer qualifying times and heightened competition in the GT1 class.
"I think it's clear that we've got a GT1 field that is very closely matched on performance," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The fans were interested in qualifying and everyone will be even more interested in the race.
"Conditions were very good today, with a slight breeze and much milder temperatures than last year," Fehan continued. "This track seems to lose grip the more the cars run on it, and that's just the nature of the surface here. We managed tire pressures very carefully during qualifying because just a slight adjustment can mean three-tenths of a second on a lap.
"In terms of setup, this track is essentially an oval, with only two significant left-hand turns on the circuit,' he explained. "Tire pressure can play a huge role. If the setup is off in one corner, then it is probably going to be off in eight."
The 2-hour, 45-minute Portland Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series, is set for Saturday, July 30. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel from 8 to 11 p.m. EDT on July 30, the first time an ALMS race has been televised in prime time.
American Le Mans Portland Grand Prix GT1 Qualifying:
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:08.193/103.682 mph (track record)
2. O'Connell/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:08.371/103.412
3. Borcheller/Mowlem, Saleen S7R, 1:08.661/102.975
4. Bertolini/Salo, Maserati MC12, 1:08.8461/102.699
5. Figge/Dalziel, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, 1:08.940/102.559
6. Weickardt/Rugolo, Dodge Viper, 1:09.926/101.113
Release Date: July 29, 2005