Bleekemolen’s qualifying heroics, two bizarre races have hit ALMS at Baltimore

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Baltimore has been the site of two of the most abnormal race weekends in American Le Mans Series history.

In 2011, Jeroen Bleekemolen pulled off the above feat during GTC class qualifying. The Dutchman lost a tire on his Black Swan Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, but then picked it up and put it back in the passenger’s seat. He looped around to his pit box, the team reattached the tire and Bleekemolen promptly stuck the car on pole! Never mind that Bleekemolen and co-driver Tim Pappas won the race, because that was what was known for.

Additional 2011 surprises came in the form of the overall and GT class winners. Dyson Racing’s older, second Lola Mazda coupe, driven by the unheralded pair of Humaid Al Masaood and Steven Kane took the P1 and overall win. Meanwhile in GT, Team Falken Tire won its first race in dry conditions and second of that season with Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler in the No. 17 Falken Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

A year ago, mixed weather conditions and more than a dozen cars on the lead lap between four of the five classes also made for a jumbled final finishing order. Level 5 Motorsports took the overall win the P2 class HPD ARX-03b, co-driven by Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut. The second Dyson Lola Mazda won again in P1 with another pair of lesser known drivers, Eric Lux and Michael Marsal, although they finished 13th overall.

Falken repeated in GT with Sellers and Henzler; that team seeks a three-peat of victories this season.

The two oddities have meant the pre-eminent prototype team and GT class tire – Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in P1 and Michelin in GT, respectively – have yet to visit victory lane at Baltimore (Michelin has supplied control tires to the PC class the last two years, but does not consider those official victories).

Expect those to change this weekend, with Michelin rubber on nine of the 11 GT class entries (excluding Falken and the West/AJR/Boardwalk Ferrari, which runs on Yokohamas), and with only one other P1 car entered besides Muscle Milk. Chris Dyson and Guy Smith return to action in Dyson’s No. 16 Lola Mazda for the first time since Lime Rock this weekend. Muscle Milk has Lucas Luhr back in his usual car after his first IndyCar start in Sonoma last weekend.

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

Photo: IndyCar
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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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