KASEMETS CONTINUES ON RECENT ROLL, CLAIMING POLE POSITION FOR FIRST ROUND OF CLEVELAND ATLANTIC DOUBLEHEADER
CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 24, 2005) -- When you're hot, you're hot and no driver is hotter in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama these days than series point leader Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil). The heat continued Friday for the racer from Estonia, literally, as Kasemets claimed the pole for Saturday's first of two series races this weekend -- the BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Cleveland (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, July 9 beginning at 2 p.m. ET)
After earning his first Atlantic pole and sweeping both ends of a doubleheader for his first series victories last weekend in Portland, Kasemets continued his momentum, turning the fastest time amid the 90-degree heat and humidity at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. The 31-year-old racer posted a time of 1:07.932 (111.606 mph) on his 12th lap during the 30-minute qualifying. Kasemets actually ventured off course between Turns 4 and 5 late in the session, but was able to gather his car and get back on track on his 19th and final lap of qualifying with the pole safely secured.
The top three drivers in the Atlantic championship standings entering this weekend's double play at Cleveland finished in the same order in qualifying Friday. Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) of the Netherlands, who sits second in the points, wound up with the second-fastest lap of the day at 1:08.325 (110.964 mph). Zwolsman battled tooth and nail with Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) in the final few minutes of qualifying as each driver tried desperately to top the mark established by Kasemets. Bessette, ranked third in the championship rundown, posted the third-quickest time of 1:08.381 (110.873 mph).
Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) continued his recent roll as well on Friday. The native of Heidelberg, Germany earned a fourth-place qualifying result, extending his streak of top-four starts for all five events this season. Wirth was clocked with a top lap of 1:09.014 (109.856 mph).
Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) had her best qualifying effort of the season at her team's home race. The 24-year-old, who competes for Chardon, Ohio's Polestar Racing Group, wound up fifth on the qualifying charts with a time of 1:09.130 (109.672 mph). Legge, who won the season-opening race at Long Beach and is currently fourth in points, topped her previous best qualifying spot of seventh with today's effort.
Tying his best Atlantic career qualifying result, Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) recorded a time of 1:09.544 (109.019 mph) for the sixth-fastest mark of the day. David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) will start Saturday's race from seventh position after he checked in at 1:09.938 (108.405 mph). Making his series debut this weekend, promising young racer Leonardo Maia (#2 Konica Minolta) qualified eighth when he turned a quick lap of 1:10.038 (108.250 mph).
Series rookie, but accomplished road racer, Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) was ninth on the scoring charts at the end of the day with a time of 1:11.041 (106.721 mph). Completing the top 10 from Friday was Dan Selznick (#49 The Room Store) who recorded a mark of 1:11.955 (105.366 mph).
In the qualifying battle for the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup, Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) -- the current C2 point leader -- added a point to his total when he recorded the fastest category time of 1:12.966 (103.906 mph). That mark placed Sofio 11th in the overall rundown.
The first Atlantic race of the weekend here at Cleveland will take the green flag at 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Prior to the 32 lap (67.392 miles) race, the Atlantic cars will qualify for the second race of the weekend. Qualifying is set to get underway at 8:15 a.m. Saturday. Follow all of the action of this weekend's races live through the Timing link on the series' official web site www.toyotaatlantic.com. Both races can also be seen on tape delay on SPEED Channel on Saturday, July 9 beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
* Kasemets claimed the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's round of qualifying. He also earned a championship point for winning the pole and he extended his lead in the series standings, now with 110 points on the year.
* The top three qualifiers all extended streaks with their results today. Kasemets has now qualified fourth or better in four consecutive events. Zwolsman extended his streak of qualifying third or better to four consecutive races, while Bessette has qualified among the top five in all five series events this season.
* Saturday's Atlantic race will start with all cars mandated to stay to the left of the center yellow line entering Turn 1. All cars must make the right-hand turn by maneuvering around a plastic barrel in the turn, which will be removed after all cars complete the turn. The start instructions will expand the radius of the first turn and prevent any dangerous moves by competitors at the outset of the race.
Quotes from the top three qualifiers from today's session follow:
TONIS KASEMETS (Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "I have a a lot of confidence in the team and my engineer is doing a great job making the car fit my driving style nd it just makes my job a lot easier. Right now, we seem to have found the right chemistry and we need to keep working on it. It looks easy from the outside to be up front but it is not and everybody is hunting me down. For my fastest lap, everything just flowed very smoothly and I had a great rhythm. It is all about finding the right balance. For the race tomorrow, as long as nobody hits me in the back at Turn 1, I think I can bring it home."
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "This is very different from a normal race track and it took me some time to get used to it. We need to adjust the car to get a little more speed to be able to run up front with these guys (Kasemets and Bessette). All corners but one are really fast and the car is really bumpy so you are always on the limit trying to controlo the rear of the car. It is really exciting! I just love qualifying because you go to the ultimate speed of the car. It is definitely my favorite exercise."
ANTOINE BESSETTE (Unik Auto Design -- Polestar Racing): "I am really happy with my performance. This morning we got lucky, we did not have any traffic so I was really fast. This afternoon I got some traffic but I managed to have a few clear laps and that's when I ran my fastest times. Last (time I raced here) I didn't make it past the first turn but I think this is a great place. It is a different track and the lines are very important. I like the track and I am looking forward to the first race tomorrow."