MONTERREY, Mexico--Visteon/Patrick Racing's Townsend Bell made his first CART qualifying effort a success today by placing ninth on the provisional grid for Sunday's Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey on the Fundidora Park road course in ...
MONTERREY, Mexico--Visteon/Patrick Racing's Townsend Bell made his first CART qualifying effort a success today by placing ninth on the provisional grid for Sunday's Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey on the Fundidora Park road course in Monterrey, Mexico.
Bell, a rookie, piloted the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard Bridgestone entry to a fast time of 79.682 seconds (95.058 mph) during the one-hour qualifying session. Under the new CART qualifying rules all drivers are permitted 15 timed laps during the one-hour period. The driver with the quickest lap gets the provisional pole and one point. There is a second, and final, qualifying session on Saturday where the fastest driver will also earn a point.
The day began with a 90-minute morning practice session. During the session, Bell ran a quick lap of 82.799 seconds (91.479 mph) putting him 16th on the speed charts. However, the track time proved invaluable and after working with his engineers during the lunch break, the talented and aggressive native of California came out for qualifying confident. With the help of team owner U. E. "Pat" Patrick and General Manager Jim McGee, who worked out a strong qualifying strategy, Bell showed tremendous improved during the qualifying session and put himself solidly in the top-ten on the provisional grid.
"Overall, I am reasonably satisfied with the Visteon/Patrick Racing team's qualifying effort today" Bell said. Given where we ended up this morning, to qualify in the top-ten is a good day. We did our homework during the break and came back in good shape so my hat is off to the Visteon/Patrick Racing engineers and crew. We still have a long ways to go, but we will take it one step at a time," Bell noted.
Commenting on the new qualifying system, Bell said, "I really enjoyed the new qualifying system. I think it makes things very exciting. It was very busy out there, but it was fun because everyone is going for it. There are a lot of good drivers taking a lot of chances and I like that environment. I think the addition of traction control really helped everybody today because the track was so slippery, so I want to thank Toyota Research and Development (TRD) for all of their help. Strategy was also a key element today. Everybody is trying to figure out the new qualifying rules. Fortunately, I have Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee, who have forgotten more than most people know about racing strategy, on my side so I had a little advantage today," Bell concluded.
Bell, the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Champion, finished second here in Monterrey a year ago in a Lights car. The resident of San Luis Obispo, California, who is competing in his first full CART season, is racing on a CART road course for the first time. Last year, in addition to competing in the Indy Lights, Bell ran two races for Visteon/Patrick Racing, both on ovals. However, he did not qualify in those events because inclement weather cancelled qualifying. As a result both races were started based on points putting Bell at the back of the field. Never the less, he was very competitive in each contest finishing 13th in his CART debut at the German 500K at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany and 12th, earning his first CART Championship point, at Rockingham in Corby, England. Because he only ran two CART races last year, Bell retains his rookie status.