Photo by John Thawley Adrian Fernandez reacquainted himself quite well with the circuit at Long Beach on Friday as the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura-powered Lola posted the fastest time in an ultra-competitive opening practice session for the American Le Mans Series. The Mexican star turned in a lap of 1:13.929 in the LMP2 entry, a razor-thin 0.005 seconds ahead of Emanuele Pirro in the first of Audi's diesel-powered R10 TDI.
The first six cars were within 0.437 seconds of each other, setting the stage for what should be an electric qualifying session later this afternoon. Three separate manufacturers were represented in the top six: Acura, Audi and Porsche.
"It's always nice to be back at Long Beach," said Fernandez, who will make his 14th career Long Beach start Saturday. He will drive this weekend with Luis Diaz. "The car has been good since St. Petersburg. Hopefully we can keep it there. Long Beach brings so many good memories. A lot of fans always come."
The only stoppage in the 45-minute session came in at the 20-minute mark. Intersport Racing's Creation-Judd ground to a halt at Turn 8 with a broken halfshaft. The team's status for qualifying was in question.
Pirro turned his time in the session's closing minutes for the best lap in LMP1 as many teams were testing their setup for qualifying. Dario Franchitti in the Andretti Green Racing Acura was third overall and second in P2 at 1:14.007. Third in class and fourth overall was Romain Dumas in the first of Penske Motorsports' Porsche RS Spyder at 1:14.166. He was 0.1 seconds ahead of Sascha Maassen in the sister car.
Next overall and second in P1 was Allan McNish in the second Audi.
In GT1, Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen turned the fastest lap in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. On his first visit to Long Beach, the Dane posted a lap of 1:19.178 to beat out teammate Oliver Gavin by less than 0.3 seconds for top honors.
"The track is very small (tight) and it's very bumpy," Magnussen said. "There's not enough time to set up the car properly but we'll be OK. I like this course, it's going to be fun."
Ferrari, Porsche and Panoz all led in GT2 at one point. Risi Competizione's Mika Salo ultimately was quickest in the Ferrari F430 GT he is sharing with Jaime Melo. Salo's best time was a 1:22.331 in the entry that has won in class twice to start the season and finished less than 0.2 seconds ahead of Patrick Long in the first Flying Lizard Porsche. The other Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Jörg Bergmeister was another 0.2 seconds back of the Ferrari.
The lineup in GT2 was just as close as the top six overall with the first nine cars within 0.9 seconds of each other.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach, Round 3 of the 2007 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 14. SPEED will provide same-day broadcast coverage from 8 to 10:30 p.m. ET. MotorsTV in Europe, SPEED Latin America and 7TV in Russia will carry the race live. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.