GRAHAM RAHAL EARNS SECOND STRAIGHT ATLANTIC POLE AFTER LEADING FINAL ROUND OF PORTLAND QUALIFYING PORTLAND, Oregon (June 17, 2006) -- You won't see Graham Rahal ( ...
GRAHAM RAHAL EARNS SECOND STRAIGHT ATLANTIC POLE AFTER LEADING FINAL ROUND OF PORTLAND QUALIFYING
PORTLAND, Oregon (June 17, 2006) -- You won't see Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) doing any frantic last-minute shopping for Father's Day on Saturday evening. The 17-year-old Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie picked up a couple of special presents for his famous father and racing legend Bobby Rahal on Saturday afternoon as he earned his second career pole position and established a new track record by leading the final round of qualifying for Round 4 of the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
The young Rahal continued his special relationship with the Portland International Raceway circuit as he topped all 27 Atlantic drivers by blistering a fast time of 1:04.628 (109.401 mph) on his 19th qualifying lap at the 1.964-mile road course. After capturing a victory at the venue in karting, Rahal earned his first professional win at PIR last season in the Star Mazda series. Saturday's impressive time in his first Atlantic visit to Portland established a new series single-lap course record, topping the mark set by French sensation Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) in Friday's first round of qualifying by more that a second.
After securing his first series pole last round in Monterrey, Mexico -- before producing a flag-to-flag victory south of the border to become the youngest-ever winner in the 33-year history of the Atlantic series -- Rahal followed up that effort with today's results to win his second straight Atlantic pole in just his fourth series race. He enters Sunday's race with 62 points, just 22 markers shy of points leader Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar).
Rahal had to hold off Pagenaud under cool and sunny conditions in the 30-minute afternoon qualifying session. Friday, Pagenuad secured the provisional pole by leading the opening round of qualifying before the rains came and drenched the track. The Team Australia rookie was on his game again on Saturday, posting a quick time of 1:04.848 (109.030), but fell just under two tenths of a second short of equaling Rahal's time. Pagenaud will join Rahal on the front row in tomorrow's race, marking the third time in the first four races that the 22-year-old native of Montmorillon, France has qualified among the top two this season.
Looking to bounce back from a pair of poor race results over the last two rounds of competition, Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) qualified third with a time of 1:04.939 (108.878 mph). The Sierra Sierra Enterprises rookie, who desperately needs to score points this weekend to remain in the championship hunt, earned his top starting position since he captured the pole at Houston in Round 2.
Rahal's new Mi-Jack Conquest Racing teammate Ryan Lewis (#30 Insport) continued his impressive opening weekend of Atlantic action on Saturday. The 22-year-old British racer, who just joined the team for the remainder of the season last week, led this morning's practice session and followed that up with a fourth-place qualifying run. The former British F3 standout clocked a top time of 1:05.083 (108.637 mph).
Leonardo Maia (#7 INDECK) produced his top Atlantic qualifying result of fifth place as he turned a lap of 1:05.356 (108.183 mph) to pace the four-man Forsythe Championship Racing "track pack." American Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing) of Polestar Racing Group also enjoyed his top qualifying result of '06 as he posted a time of 1:05.637 (108.165 mph) in sixth position. PR1 Motorsports' Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) wound up seventh in the qualifying order with a mark of 1:05.404 (108.103 mph).
Forsythe Racing drivers occupied the eighth and ninth spots in the rundown on Saturday. Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) checked in with a time of 1:05.411 (108.092 mph) followed closely by 16-year-old teammate Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK) at 1:05.423 (108.072 mph). Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) earned his second top-10 qualifying result of the season as he completed the top 10 runners when he recorded a lap of 1:05.488 (107.965 mph).
Series leader Wirth, who holds an 84-80 over Pagenaud in the Atlantic championship chase, suffered his second poor qualifying result in a row. Wirth wound up 12th overall when he posted a time of 1:05.687 (107.638 mph).
Sunday's Round 4 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship will take the green flag at 10 a.m. PT. Follow all of the action from Sunday's race in Portland through the Live Timing link and see all of the 2006 series races on demand by visiting www.champcaratlantic.com.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
The top 11 drivers in Saturday's final round of qualifying were separated by less than a second on the scoring charts.
Among the top 11 qualifiers for tomorrow's race, 10 of the drivers are rookie competitors in the Atlantic Championship.
After qualifying 10th for the worst result of his Atlantic career at Round 3 in Monterrey, Mexico, Andreas Wirth slipped further in Saturday's qualifying to a 12th place qualifying effort.
Graham Rahal was able to accomplish something Saturday that his father Bobby was unable to do in his distinguished Champ Car career. The elder Rahal never won a pole position at Portland while his son turned the trick today. Bobby Rahal did win at PIR, however, capturing the 1987 Champ Car race at the venue.
Video highlights of Sunday's Atlantic race will be included on the Champ Car satellite video uplink feed. Racing action and interviews with the top finishers from the Atlantic Championship will be featured on the feed, scheduled for Sunday, June 18 from 7:15-7:45 p.m. ET. The satellite coordinates from the uplink are: KU-Band (ANALOG), AMC 6, Transponder: K-22, D/L Frequency:12140 Horizontal and Audio: 6.2 6.8.
Quotes from the top three drivers in qualifying follow:
Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing: "Portland has always been good. I came here in go-karts. Alan Sciuto and I were fighting for the west coast championship, and I won the race here. Last year in Star Mazda was a horrible weekend. We were 17th in practice and couldn't figure out what to do, but somehow we ended up winning the race. I don't what it is about Portland, but it treats me perfectly and I hope it continues tomorrow. I know that I started up front last year, next to Raphael Matos, and it's very important to get through those first turns. I have to finish to gain points. It would be nice to finish up front, but I definitely need to finish."
Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia: "The balance was not right on the car. I don't know why, maybe the track changed. I didn't do what I wanted, but second is a good place. Front row again, third in a row is pretty good. The car was hard to drive and I was on the edge the whole session. Graham and I both want to win the championship, so we'll see tomorrow."
Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: "I definitely felt the pressure this weekend. After two bad weekends, in Houston and in Monterrey, we had to get good results here. I think third is not a bad place to start here at Portland. Of course you always try to go faster and I was a little bit disappointed. I was expecting my car to have a better balance with the new set of tires. I just couldn't push any harder. But, we were able to run consistent laps in the low 65s. I think it should be an interesting race tomorrow. This track is hard on tires, so you have to manage your tires. We need to keep improving the car, nothing major, but improve the balance. I can't afford to have DNFs anymore, but I have to attack all the time or I won't have a chance to win the championship."