Mexico City: Series qualifying report

Mexico City Native Rojas Earns First Career Rolex Series Pole at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Rojas takes pole by .029 seconds, German Pierre Kaffer takes Rolex GT pole MEXICO CITY (April 17, 2008) -- Memo Rojas will start on the pole for his...

Mexico City Native Rojas Earns First Career Rolex Series Pole at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Rojas takes pole by .029 seconds, German Pierre Kaffer takes Rolex GT pole

MEXICO CITY (April 17, 2008) -- Memo Rojas will start on the pole for his home race Saturday (SPEED, Live, 4 p.m. ET), the Mexico City 250 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 after setting a track record in his No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley.

Currently leading the point standings by 13, Rojas -- who has won the opening two Rolex Series races -- notched a time of 1:19.508 (113.196 mph), nearly a second-and-a-half faster than last year's pole time. The pole was Rojas' first in 16 career starts, and the team's first since last September at Miller Motorsports Park. In addition to collecting the XPEL Pole Award, Rojas and co-driver Scott Pruett also hope for their third straight win to start 2008.

Outside front row starter Mark Wilkins also earned his first career front row start, taking second with a time of 1:19.537 (113.155 mph), only .029 seconds behind Rojas. The co-driver of the No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley will co-drive the car with Brian Frisselle, and the team is looking for its first career victory on the 2.5-mile, 14-turn track.

David Donohue, who recorded the pole in last month's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, qualified third (1:19.652) in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, ahead of Fogarty (1:19.706) in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley and Frisselle's brother Burt Frisselle (1:20.141) in the No. 47 Doran Racing BSI/CDOC Ford Dallara. Ten drivers posted times faster than last year's record qualifying time (1:21.221, Colin Braun).

In the earlier Rolex GT qualifying session, German Pierre Kaffer took the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 to his first career series pole with a time of 1:26.621 (103.901 mph). Kaffer, who is teaming with defending Rolex Series driving champion Dirk Werner this weekend and making his second start with the team this season, is the third driver in as many races in 2008 to score a GT pole.

Kelly Collins, a former Mexico City 250 GT race winner, will start from the outside of the front row after setting a time of 1:26.631 (103.889 mph) in the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R. Rounding out the top five in GT were No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 co-driver Jeff Segal (1:26.970), No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R co-driver Andrew Davis (1:26.980) and No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 co-driver Nick Ham (1:27.180).

The 250-mile or two-hour, 45-minute race is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. ET Saturday.

NEWS & NOTES (QUALIFYING, FOR RACE)

- This is Memo Rojas' first career Rolex Series pole (1:19.508) and the first for TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates since September 2007 (Miller Motorsports Park).

- Rojas becomes the third driver in as many Daytona Prototype races this season to score a pole. Others to have won a pole include Oswaldo Negri (Rolex 24 At Daytona) and David Donohue (GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami).

- Mark Wilkins' (1:19.537) outside front row starting spot marks his best career start and the best career start for AIM Autosport in its first two seasons of competition.

- Only .029 seconds separated Memo Rojas and Mark Wilkins, the slimmest margin for the pole this season.

- This is the first pole for a Lexus-powered Daytona Prototype in 2008 and first for the manufacturer since September 2007 (Miller Motorsports Park).

- Four of the top five cars are powered by different engine manufacturers (Ford -- 2; Lexus, Pontiac, Porsche -- 1). The top four cars were Rileys, with Dallara claiming fifth.

- Three different engine manufacturers have taken poles after the Mexico City 250: Ford (Rolex 24), Porsche (GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami) and Lexus (Mexico City).

- Defending Mexico City 250 race co-winners Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney will start fourth after taking a time of 1:19.706.

- This is Pierre Kaffer's first career Rolex Series GT pole (1:26.621; 103.901 mph). He is in his second Rolex Series race of the season driving for Farnbacher Loles Racing.

- Kaffer becomes the third driver this season to capture a Rolex Series GT pole. Sylvain Tremblay (Rolex 24) and Kelly Collins (GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami) scored the poles in the first two races.

- This is also Porsche's first Rolex Series GT pole this season. Previously, Mazda (Rolex 24) and Pontiac (GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami) scored poles.

- This is the first pole for Farnbacher Loles Racing since March 23, 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The team is seeking its first GT win since April 28, 2007 at Virginia International Raceway.

- Porsche, Pontiac and Mazda made up the top three in GT qualifying.

- This is the second straight Rolex Series GT front row start for Kelly Collins (1:26.631) and the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R.

- Jeff Segal (1:26.970) has the best start for the defending race winning team SpeedSource, as he is starting third. His teammates, defending GT race co-winners Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham, will start fifth after Ham set a time of 1:27.180.

- The No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3, which was involved in an accident during practice Thursday, will not compete in the Mexico City 250 due to chassis damage.

POST QUALIFYING QUOTES

Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "I'm really happy to have won my first Rolex Series pole here in Mexico. It was a great effort by the team. We struggled with chassis setup, but thankfully we made the right decisions towards the end of the last practice session and in qualifying. We'll see tomorrow. The race has yet to start and we've got a lot of work to do."

Mark Wilkins (No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley): "We worked very hard this weekend. We elected to go with a little bit more downforce to help us in some of the tighter sections of the track and that paid off well for us in qualifying. I think we're going to have to go back and think about it a little bit more for the race. The guys gave me a great car. Ford is a great engine. It's fantastic to be here in Mexico. It's a fantastic track with some great fans. I'm very excited about the race tomorrow."

Pierre Kaffer (No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "Mexico is not that easy of a circuit. This is the first time I've drove this circuit, and I've improved during every session. I did a long run this morning, and I felt good prior to the qualifying session. In qualifying, we had everything together, and it worked. Before qualifying, we didn't expect to be on the pole. The team did a very good job between yesterday and today, and it's very nice to work with Farnbacher Loles. I'm looking forward to driving many more races for them."

"We improved things in the setups -- some small things. The important thing was to not get in traffic. The second thing was to use the peak of the tires. We did a good job with that. Finally, there were no mistakes, and the lap wasn't too bad. We will be prepared for tomorrow. We did our long run this morning, and we will see how it goes. In the end, we'll need a little bit of luck to win or sit on the podium. We have to stop at the right time and stay out of trouble."

Kelly Collins (No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R): "It was close for the pole. I was driving as hard as I could. We have some small handling woes, but that is really the difference to being on the pole here. It is not good at all to be starting on the outside of the front row. I hope I don't get hung out on the first turn and end up going into turn three in like fifth. I will keep it up toward the front and then let Paul bring it home."

-credit: garra

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