Fernandez Retains Pole For Monterrey Race
Team uses strategy to gain second title point
Saturday morning sunny skies and warm temperatures gave way to dark clouds and rain, just in time for mid-afternoon CART final qualifying for the 2nd annual Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey. This season opener, held at Fundidora Park in center-city Monterrey, Mexico, will be paced by provisional polesitter Adrian Fernandez. Fernandez picked up a second championship point based on his #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Lola/Honda's quick lap of 1 minute 46.320 seconds (71.242mph) in a final qualifying session beset by wind, lowered temperatures (from 81 to 71F) and intermittent rain.
"This is a great milestone for Lola Cars, for Fernandez Racing and for Honda Performance Development," said Dan Partel, president of Lola Cars International Inc. "For Adrian Fernandez to qualify on pole here is like stepping up to the plate and hitting a grand slam. He is Mexico's superstar, he's sponsored by [local brewery] Tecate and this is Honda's first race with Lola"
The grid was set by Friday's provisional session as wet weather slowed the pace of the scheduled hour-long final time trials. Seven of 10 top starters have Lola chassis beneath them, but had the weather held through final qualifying, the situation might have been even better. During morning practice, eight of the quickest nine Champ Cars were Lola drivers and "these Saturday morning results show that confidence in Lola is building throughout the CART community," Partel acknowledged. Practice lap times and speeds were well under Fernandez' pole time of 78.929 seconds (95.965mph), with #6 Havoline Lola/Toyota driver Cristiano da Matta leading the way at 76.486sec/99.030mph.
The decision by Fernandez Racing co-owners Tom Anderson, Don Halliday and Adrian Fernandez to send the lead driver out early in a very light rain proved a defining decision. Under new CART rules, the fastest qualifier on Friday gains a point and guaranteed front row start; Saturday's fastest driver either eclipses the earlier mark or takes outside pole. With Fernandez gaining both points for the front row, his team takes a huge lead in the CART FedEx championship, with the first race yet to run.
Chief designer Ben Bowlby noted, "It's always gratifying to take pole, but even more so when a new team and new engine installation comes together and performs to such a high level."
At this time, weather forecasts call for mid-70s temperatures under cloudy skies for Sunday's 85-lap contest. Speed Channel will televise the Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey live in the U.S., starting at 1p.m. EST.