de Ferran on pole at St Petersburg

Stunning pole position lap for Simon Pagenaud in the no.66 XM Radio Acura ARX-02a

 de Ferran Motorsports duo Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud will start today's Acura Sports Car Challenge of St Petersburg - round two of the American Le Mans Series - from pole position on the grid. This is the second consecutive pole position for the new no.66 XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a after it also lined up first on the starting grid two weeks ago at Sebring.

The de Ferran Motorsports crew has dominated proceedings today around the St Petersburg street circuit. On his debut at the circuit, team owner Gil de Ferran was fastest in the day's first practice session with a lap time of 1m06.125s. This was further improved on in the second practice session by Pagenaud who, really beginning to master the tight, waterfront track near Tampa Bay lapped in 1m05.472s.

And in qualifying it was the young Frenchman who again proved unstoppable with a stunning pole position time of 1m03.776s - almost a second faster than that achieved by the similar car of David Brabham/Scott Sharp (1m04.722s) around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit.

Pagenaud commented: "It's very exciting to be starting from the pole. The XM Radio Acura behaved really well. I had no problems after practice going into qualifying, so we just put new tires on and I just went for it, pushed hard and got a good time. We'll see tomorrow.  St. Petersburg is one of the toughest courses I've experienced. It's a great street circuit, really fun to drive, but there is no margin for error. You have to push to the limit, but going into every corner - you must have everything right. It takes constant concentration. There is no time to rest.

"I was expecting with so much contact from the four large tires that the car might handle differently on the street course in the corners, but the car is really well-balanced and is braking really well. Qualifying was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow and starting from the pole."

de Ferran was naturally ecstatic for his team who are therefore on pole position for their debut race at St Petersburg. The achievement also means the new Acura LMP1 car will start from the pole for what will be its first-ever street race.

The 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and two-time (2000-2001) CART Champion said: "It's thrilling for de Ferran Motorsports to be starting from the pole for the second consecutive event. Simon put down some really quick laps straight away and had three laps that were good enough for pole. As Simon stated, the car is handling very well and we're looking forward to a great race tomorrow. This event is very different from our last event, the 12 hours of Sebring.  It's a shorter race overall, but as St Petersburg is a street course the corners are tighter and the walls are closer. Race strategy is going to play a key role in the final result. It should be very exciting."

Today's Acura Sports Car Challenge of St Petersburg is timed for 1.20pm to 3.15pm.

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