Diaz Earns Provisional Pole in Home Country Dorricott Racing Takes Top Two Spots in Friday Qualifying MONTERREY, Mexico (March 8, 2002) -- Dorricott Racing continued it's success in preparations for Saturday's Round 1 CART Toyota ...
Diaz Earns Provisional Pole in Home Country
Dorricott Racing Takes Top Two Spots in Friday Qualifying
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 8, 2002) -- Dorricott Racing continued it's success in preparations for Saturday's Round 1 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico. Luis Diaz, (Dorricott Racing/Telmex Swift 014.a) driving in front of the home country fans and teammate, Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr Castrol Swift 014.a) led Dorricott's charge in the teams first ever Atlantic race weekend.
The large Friday crowd, already charged with Adrian Fernandez's provisional pole in the CART FedEx Championship Series, got a double dose of National pride when Diaz put his car up top with a time of 1:28.568 seconds (85.521). Since this was the first ever Atlantic qualifying event at the 2.1-mile Fundidora Park circuit, the time also established a new track record. In addition to the provisional pole, Diaz earned one Championship point along with guaranteeing himself a front row starting spot in Saturday afternoon's 32-lap race. Gurney's lap of 1:28.771 seconds (85.325 mph) put him second overall heading into tomorrow morning's second round qualifying session. Gurney will try to knock Diaz off of the pole tomorrow and win his second career Atlantic pole after winning his first at the 2000 Cleveland event.
"I'm dedicating this first pole position to Bob Dorricott," said a happy Diaz. "He's not here this weekend but without him I wouldn't be here either. Dorricott Racing is the edge I've been seeking in my career. Dorricott Racing has allowed me to race a competitive car and become teammates with other great drivers like Alex Gurney. It is my first pole since running in the Indy Lights Pan-American series at Mexico City three years ago. I also won that race." Diaz continued about what he expected for the remainder of the weekend. "I expect conditions tomorrow will make the track faster for qualifying but slower for the race. We have a few more changes to make but they will hopefully make the car a little faster."
"We're still looking for the best combination of set-up and strategy," said second place Gurney. "I think it will be more slippery tomorrow morning with more rubber on the track, but the cooler temperatures will likely lead to quicker times. I won't guess how much quicker. I like this circuit. It's a driver's track, a 'Luis' (Diaz) track. There're a lot of different types of corners that make it interesting. It's the type of track that tempts you to try hard, then push harder, and it takes a lot of skill. My father has many fond memories of Mexico and the fans. The fans are great. They are passionate about racing. It's good to be here. I can really feel the fan's passion."
Derek Higgins, (P-1 Racing/Value Swift 008.a) who won the CART Dayton Indy Lights race here last season, turned in the third fastest lap of the session with a time of 1:28.808 seconds (85.290 mph). Higgins, who was a last minute entry this weekend, was behind the wheel of the Swift 008.a that Tony Ave drove last year.
"We're using the old car," said Higgins. "P-1 Racing is a very good team. They wanted to rekindle the old memories of last year's race champion in Indy Lights. Maybe the old man and the old car will do even better tomorrow."
Six of the top ten drivers in this afternoon's session were rookies. After Diaz and Higgins, the next best rookie was Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a) who turned in the fifth fastest lap of the session with a time of 1:28.822 seconds (85.276 mph). Michael Valiante, (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) who has only five Atlantic starts under his belt, qualified fourth with a time of 1:28.809 seconds (85.289 mph). The time missed Higgins third place spot by 1/1000's of a second.
Like the morning practice session, this afternoon's track time was run under all green flag conditions making a total of 70 minutes of caution free time on Friday. Although there was no red flag, Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) slid off course in turn 3 and the car got temporarily airborne as the right side wheels dug into the grass. Ryley was able to continue on to the pits, but retired from the session from the suspension damaged suffered in the incident. Ryley finished 16th in the session, but will try and rebound tomorrow. The third Dorricott entry, Jon Fogarty, (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) suffered a mechanical problem during the session and was only able to managed a seventh place spot on the provisional grid.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.