TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec (August 1, 2003) - The juggernaut that is A.J. Allmendinger ( ...
TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec (August 1, 2003) - The juggernaut that is A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) and the first-year RuSPORT team continued in Friday's first round of qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (SPEED Channel, Live, 1:00 p.m. ET)., as the rookie blistered the previous track record and put his car on the provisional pole position.
Allmendinger posted a best lap of 59.296 seconds (92.343 mph) and broke the two-year-old track record of 1:00.663 (90.263 mph) established by 2001 series champion Hoover Orsi. As a result, Allmendinger has guaranteed himself a front-row starting position for Sunday's race and also earned a championship point to extend his lead in the point standings to 28 over Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record).
With the performance, Allmendinger has continued his streak of qualifying inside the top-three positions to eight consecutive races, and has not failed to start outside the top-three in his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship career. It was also the fifth consecutive qualifying session dating to the first round of qualifying in Cleveland early last month in which the rookie has been atop the time charts.
Qualifying second on the provisional grid was defending race champion Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing), who posted a best lap of 59.905 seconds (91.405 mph). Valiante heads into Saturday's final qualifying session looking for his second career pole position (his first came at Trois-Rivieres last year) and also to extend his streak of consecutive top-three starting spots to three races, dating to a second place qualifying performance at Cleveland.
Third on the provisional grid was rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortage Company), who clocked a best lap of 1:00.052 (91.181 mph). If Patrick is able to maintain or improve her position in Saturday's final round of qualifying, it will be her best career starting position, topping a previous best start of fifth at the season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. In that race, Patrick went on to finish third and became the first woman in series history to finish on the podium.
Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) holds down the fourth position on the provisional grid after turning in a best lap of 1:00.132 (91.181 mph). Justus would extend his streak of top-five starting positions to three with a top-five performance at the end of final qualifying, and he has finished inside the top five in all but one race thus far in 2003.
Dalziel rounded out the top five on the time charts with a lap of 1:00.202 (90.954 mph). The Scot snapped a streak of consecutive podium finishes at four races with a fifth place run in the Molson Indy Toronto three weeks ago, but is riding a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes dating to his first career Toyota Atlantic victory in the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite in late May. He has also finished in the top-five in eight of his past nine starts dating to Round 11 in Montreal last year.
Sixth on the provisional grid is Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) with a lap of 1:00.211 (90.940 mph). Macri would have qualified second on the grid but lost his fastest time after bringing the session to a halt approximately four minutes early when he had a violent crash coming onto the front straightaway. The Canadian was not seriously injured in the accident, but the car was extensively damaged. He is likely to lose all of his timed laps in Saturday's final qualifying session, as he will probably be forced to compete the remainder of the weekend in his backup machine. Macri was the only driver to bring out the red flag in the first qualifying session.
Dorricott Racing's Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) is seventh on the provisional grid with a best lap of 1:00.515 (90.483 mph), followed by Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) at 1:00.763 (90.114 mph). American Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports) was ninth at 1:00.782 (90.086 mph), and Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) filled out the top 10 in his first qualifying session as a member of Sierra Sierra Enterprises at 1:01.369 (89.224 mph).
Saturday's schedule calls for the Toyota Atlantic machines to have a 30-minute practice session beginning at 9:10 a.m. ET, and will be followed by final qualifying from 2:40 - 3:10 p.m. ET. Live Timing & Scoring data from every session is available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.
Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:
* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT): "It's a tough track out there. It's quite amazing. To start off with, the car, we got a direction from the practice session, but it wasn't that good handling-wise. We got a little bit better during the session, and then we made a change with the new tires when we put them on, and the car was decently a bit better than that. I was able to drive more consistent, and still learning the track never being here before, it's a combination of both myself and the car, just trying to get it better. RuSPORT did a great job, Burke Harrison, my engineer, we're really working well together. I can't say enough how big of a help he's been to me. Engineering-wise and just learning, just calming myself down, he's a great guy to have on the radio. I think the car can get a lot better too, for tomorrow, and I think we will need to get it a lot better. I'm pleased with the session, it's another point, they just keep adding up. It's hard to say (how much more there is in the car). I don't know this track. For how bumpy it is and just how different it is with the track falling off on the sides and not being smooth, I don't know how great the car can actually feel here. Overall, I think we can still get a decent bit better, and we'll work on that tonight. I think we have a good direction to talk about it tonight and get it better for tomorrow."
* MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing): "It was tough today to get a clear lap. For some reason, I just kept on getting traffic, so it was a little frustrating. The car is getting better every session, so I think we'll be stronger tomorrow."
* DANICA PATRICK (#24 Argent Mortgage Company): "The track doesn't seem to pick up tons of grip, so it's staying somewhat consistent which makes it easier for someone who hasn't been here before. It's just a matter of working with the team and getting the car faster, because one wrong move, as I've always said, is going to put you behind the game two steps. We've been making the right steps forward and pushing hard at the same time. If you push hard and make the right changes you go forward. That's what we've been doing. I'm definitely pleased, especially with not being here before. I know that, other than the yellow car, A.J., who's miles ahead right now, other than that, I'm within a tenth-and-a-half of P-2 and these guys have been here for three years. I think it says a lot about how hard we've worked in our down time between Toronto and here, and we plan on going further ahead than this."