Less than a single second — .853 — separated the nine top qualifiers for the third running of the American Le Mans Series event at Miller Motorsports Park, which sets the stage for what could be a very close final.

The race will start today at 1 p.m. and last for two hours and 45 minutes.

Timo Bernhard, the 2007 LMP2 champion, made a last-run effort to grab the pole position during qualifying Saturday afternoon and made it.

Bernhard, from Humburg, Germany, was in third as the clock was running down to the last seven minutes.

"My engineer asked me if I wanted to try again for the pole, as the Michelins were wearing quite well, and he thought we could afford another two laps. I saw I was not far behind, and gave it another try," he said. "I put in a good lap, and then another good lap before the checkered flag. I didn't know until I came into the pits that those laps were good enough for the pole."

Bernhard's time around the redesigned 3.6-mile course was 1 minute, 31.05 seconds, which was an average speed of 120.514 MPH. He was driving the No. 7 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder. He will share driving duties with Romain Dumas.

The surprise performance was turned in by Gil de Ferran, who is making his debut in the Le Mans series. De Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and two-time CART champion, who last raced in 2003, posted the second-fastest time, but due to a technical problem will have to start last in the LMP2 field.

On his last lap, he spun off the field and ruined his tires. And, by changing tires for the start, he was penalized.

Luis Diaz, who had the third-fastest time in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing No. 15 Acura, was bumped up to second. His time was 0.292 second behind Bernhard.

Marco Werner was first in LMP1 class, but was sixth overall in the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI. He will drive with Lucas Luhr. His top lap time was 1:31.590 for an average speed of 119.803 mph. Second in the class was Frank Biela in the sister No. 1 Audi. He will share driving duties with Emanuele Pirro.

Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R won the GT1 pole position for the second time this season. His time of 1:43.869 for an average speed of 105.641 MPH.

Wolf Henzler and Jaime Melso posted identical times in the GT2 class. Their times were 1:47.135 for an average speed of 102.420 MPH.

When the flag drops today to start the race, all four classes will be on the track at the same time, which results in a lot of passing by faster cars overtaking slower cars, and a lot of lead changes.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 435-277-7223 or visit www.MillerMotorsportsPark.com.


E-mail: grass@desnews.com