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03-30-2007: Beretta Sets ALMS Record with St. Petersburg GT1 Pole
Source: GM Media

Olivier Edges O'Connell in Qualifying for Inaugural ALMS Street Race in St. Pete

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. - Olivier Beretta claimed his record-setting 19th career ALMS pole today in qualifying for Saturday's inaugural Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. Beretta turned the fastest lap in the GT1 class at 1:09.531 (93.196 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Johnny O'Connell qualified the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R at 1:10.212 (92.292 mph) on the 1.8-mile temporary circuit alongside Tampa Bay.

"I always like street courses because I was born near Turn 1 in Monaco," said Beretta, a lifelong resident of the principality that hosts the Monaco Grand Prix. "It is a different challenge than a road course because you know that you cannot put a wheel off the line or you will be in the wall. I ran street races in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 in Europe, so I'm happy that we have some new street races in ALMS this year."

"The car was quick since the beginning, and that shows the strength of Corvette Racing in being able to set up a car quickly at a new circuit," said Beretta. "There were many red flags during practice so the sessions were quite short, but Olly (Gavin) did a very good job on setting up the car."

Beretta recorded his quick time on his second timed lap, while O'Connell logged his best time on his third circuit.

"I said to myself, 'You know the track, you've been in this situation before, so you just have to push,'" Beretta reported. "The Corvette was fast, I drove hard without making a mistake, and the lap time came."

O'Connell encountered traffic on the bayside course as the GT1 cars shared the track with slower GT2 machines.

"When you're planning to do only five laps in qualifying, and if you have traffic every lap, you can't get a good shot," said O'Connell. "I like this circuit, but I'm disappointed that we didn't go quicker. I think the guys deserved to see a little quicker time from the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, but it is what it is."

The Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, the second round of the 12-race 2007 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 31. The two-hour, 45-minute race will be televised in a same-day broadcast on SPEED from 8 to 11 p.m. ET.