DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 8, 2002) - Didier Theys picked up the final pole of the 2002 Rolex Sports Car Series season during qualifying today for the Dark Dog Grand American Finale at Daytona International Speedway. Theys recorded a 126.499 mph lap in 1:41.313 at the wheel of the Doran Lista Racing #27 Judd-powered Dallara.
"It was hot. The track is quite slippery this afternoon. I believe after the Grand-Am Cup race this afternoon it will be even more slippery on Sunday. We had to go up on the tire compound," commented Theys. "The handling of the car is good so far, and we have a good balance for the race. We still need to be competitive. In order to be competitive, you have to push. If we have the opportunity to win the race, we'll take it. Maybe we'll take less risk in the traffic passing slower cars, but I think if we can win it without too much risk, we'll take it."
Butch Leitzinger will start the Dyson Racing Team #20 Ford-engined Riley & Scott in the outside pole position after clocking a 1:42.183 lap at 125.422 mph. His teammate, James Weaver, put the team's #16 Ford in the third position with a 125.384 mph lap in 1:42.214.
"The car is the best it has been this weekend. It still needs some improvement. It's really good in the fast stuff like the chicane. It's probably the best I've ever driven a car through there," noted Leitzinger. "We're struggling for grip in the low speed stuff in the infield, but we usually are early in the week. As the rubber gets down it usually gets better and better."
Theys will try to hold onto the points lead and secure himself and Doran Lista Racing their first driver and team championships in the Rolex Series. However, rookie driver Chris Dyson, in the #16 car, and the Dyson Racing Team hope to be the spoilers and take the team's third-straight team title. Despite the close battle for the Rolex Series crown, team owner Rob Dyson says there will be no team orders to allow the #16 car to finish ahead of the #20 entry in order to clinch a championship.
"The orders are to finish 1-2. We want to be in front. I think any other kind of orders can be dangerous and tarnish a championship," Dyson remarked.
Ralf Kelleners bested his teammate Terry Borcheller by more than a second to take the SportsRacing Prototype II pole position. Kelleners put in a 119.485 mph lap in 1:47.260 to earn his first SRPII pole in the Rand Racing #7 Nissan-engined Lola.
"I think that we are finally in the position to beat them (the #8 car). We had some disadvantages in Virginia, and I hope that we can get back to where we left the old battle and finally, hopefully beat them," said Kelleners of the much-anticipated battle between the two cars.
In the American GT class, Tommy Riggins broke his own track record during qualifying in the Heritage Motorsports #48 Mustang. He captured the class pole with a 117.059 mph lap in 1:49.483, breaking his own record set earlier this season during qualifying for the Jani-King Paul Revere 250.
"The track is in good shape. It isn't real slippery, but the sun has changed it around from the first days that we were here. There is still pretty good grip, and actually the grip is getting better as the days go on," said Higgins.
However the 98-degree track temperatures prompted a different response from GTS polesitter Franz Konrad. "The track was very slippery. We had the same problem yesterday, and I'm not sure if its our car or the track because everybody has complained about it being slippery," said Konrad, who piloted the Konrad Motorsports #31 Saleen S7R to a 113.951 mph lap in 1:52.469. "This was the first in a while that we changed over to the Goodyear tires, so we must setup the car the right way for the Goodyears. We will get there for the race."
Two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona GT polesitter Joao Barbosa picked up yet another class pole on the 3.56-mile road course, piloting the Perspective Motorsports #24 Mosler MT900R to a 111.755 mph lap in 1:54.679.
"This is going to be my last race with this team, and I really want to do the best I can to help them get one more win this season," remarked Barbosa, who will join Mica Racing next season in a GTS Mosler. "I feel really good about Sunday. I've got a great driver that's going to share the car with me (Jerome Policand). I think we can do a really good job with the car."
The Dark Dog Grand American Finale will feature a three-hour Rolex Series race on Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets for the event are on sale and may be purchased at the gate. Additional information is available on the Daytona International Speedway website at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at 386-253-RACE.
The Rolex Series race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel on Sunday, Nov. 10 at noon.
Additional information about the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup may be found online at www.grandamerican.com.