Rojas takes pole with new track record.
MONTREAL, QUEBEC (August 23, 2003) - Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico broke the track record set last year by 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion A.J. Allmendinger to take the pole position in final qualifying for Sunday's race with a lap of 1:40.189 seconds on the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion Leo Maia of Oakland, California, will start alongside Rojas in the final race of the Barber Dodge season after he came up just short in his last lap bid to reclaim the pole. Dan Di Leo improved one position from Friday's qualifying to take third on the provisional grid next to David Martinez.
Colin Fleming recovered from a difficult morning practice session to take fifth on the grid, with Ward Imrie putting in another strong qualifying effort to take sixth in just his third Pro Series start. Mexican Salvador Duran, who is also making just his third start, will take the green flag tomorrow in seventh position alongside countryman German Quiroga. Nelson Philippe of Valence, France, will start in the fifth row next to Newport Beach, California's Ryan Millen.
The pole position is the second of the season for Rojas, who took his first pole at Laguna Seca this June. Rojas was happy to take the pole and set a new track record, but is keeping his eye on his main goal of the weekend.
"This is very satisfying to take the pole and to break the record, but its only half the job for me this weekend," said Rojas. "We need to stay calm and focus on tomorrows race and go for a win. The car is much more consistent than it was yesterday as I have a very good set up. The session was actually a little bit frustrating, since I kept hearing on the radio that I was 'in second, one tenth behind,' and then I would go and set a lap that was two tenths faster, and still hear that I was a tenth down!"
Tomorrows race will see some familiar helmets up front as Rojas, Maia, Di Leo, and Martinez have made a habit of starting at the front, so Rojas is not expecting to have any problems at the start.
"I am hoping to just have a clean start to the race," said Rojas. "For the three of us who are fighting for second place in the championship, we have to finish to get the points of course, so I think it should be a very exciting race tomorrow."
Leo Maia was the first to break the track record as he battled for the pole with Rojas, but he was unable to get the right combination of a clear track and proper tire temperatures late in the session and fell short of the ultimate pole time.
"I was frustrated in the middle of the session, since it seemed like a long time to get the tires up to temperature, and towards the end, I would get a gap, and then I would keep catching traffic right away so I just couldn't get the times back down to Rojas's," said Maia. "I want to say congratulations to Memo, though, he did a great job. I think the race should be very interesting tomorrow with people taking different approaches to their set ups between high and low downforce, and there should be a lot of passing in the braking zones, so it should be good for the Canadian fans here."
Dan Di Leo had a strong session as he improved from his fourth position in provisional qualifying to move up one spot on the grid.
"The session went really well today, we have been fighting the balance of the car all weekend, trying to maximize our speed all over the track," said Di Leo. "I have been doing some experimenting with a lower downforce set up this weekend, so I hope to gain an edge with what I have learned this weekend as we look to the race tomorrow."
Di Leo is eight points behind Rojas for second place in the season championship, but is thinking more about the race than the overall championship.
"I am here to win, so that's my main objective this weekend. I am hoping to make a good impression and win the last race of the year."
The race is scheduled to get underway at 11:30 am EST. Full story and results to be posted at www.barberdodge.com.