Sebring: Andersen Racing qualifying notes

Vassmer Leads Andersen Racing Contingent With Fourth-Place Qualifying Result at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 15 - Andersen Racing's Ricardo Vassmer qualified fourth; Jonathan Goring 14th; Phil Saville 16th; Jonny Baker 20th and...

Vassmer Leads Andersen Racing Contingent With Fourth-Place Qualifying Result at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 15 - Andersen Racing's Ricardo Vassmer qualified fourth; Jonathan Goring 14th; Phil Saville 16th; Jonny Baker 20th and Michael Fitzgerald 26th Thursday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway for Friday's season opener of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.

Thirty-two cars are scheduled to take the green flag tomorrow at 3 p.m. and then duke it out for 45 minutes.

Vassmer, of Caracas, Venezuela, took only 2:00.517 to cover the 17-turn, 3.7-mile road course on his fastest lap during qualifying to earn the right to start in Row Two. He's in the Andersen Racing No. 25, with support from Zoom, a top courier service; Meridiano Television; Santa Barbara Airlines and Citgo. His fastest lap took only five-tenths of a second longer than pole winner Dane Cameron's best lap, and was done at an average speed of 110.524 miles per hour.

With 5 minutes to go in the session Vassmer was second only to Cameron, but Marco DiLeo and James Davison edged ahead in the closing minutes.

The effort was a testament not only to Vassmer's talent but also to the hard work of the Andersen Racing team, based in Fairfield, N.J. His car sustained rear-end damage on Wednesday when another competitor hit Vassmer in the rear, and the team's engineers and mechanics worked very hard to get his car back in good shape for qualifying.

The top six cars were less than a second apart and all six broke the track record of 2:01.002 that Brad Jaeger set last year in an Andersen Racing entry.

Goring's best lap of 2:01.462 (109.664 mph) was only one-tenth of a second off a top-10 time and only eight-tenths of a second behind the top five in the very competitive field. Goring, of Norfolk, Conn., is sponsored by the Skip Barber Racing School, Alfas Unlimited and NPA Graphics.

Goring and Saville topped the charts for the bulk of the first half of qualifying. The field is split into two for two 20-minute sessions in the hopes of alleviating crashes and encouraging clean laps. In the end Goring got the upper hand but Saville, of Oak Brook, Ill., was only five-tenths of a second behind him with a 2:01.999 (109.181 mph). The latter's car is sponsored by New York Jewelers of Chicago; NVG Residential; Mac Marketing & Advertising Corp. and Chicago Indoor Racing.

Baker had a problem with his car's gearshift linkage that caused him to spin, but he rebounded to post a 2:03.196 (108.120 mph) in the Andersen Racing No. 6 for his first qualifying session ever in the United States. He's from Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, England.

Fitzgerald had a qualifying time of 2:04.842 (106.695 mph). The driver from Newtown Square, Pa. is making his first Star Mazda start with support from a new sponsor, Blaser Swisslube, as well as Star CNC Machine Tools, LNS America, Lynex, Penske Racing Shocks and Fitze Engineers.

Quotes follow:

Ricardo Vassmer: "My tires came in quickly and I was fast right away. I had one very good lap early, but then a slow car in Turn 16 killed that lap. The third lap was my qualifying lap. Then I came in and we lowered our tire pressure, and I went back out for one last shot. I was good in one, three, five and the Keyhole and 10, but then a yellow flag came out. If it hadn't, that lap could have been even faster, because the car was really good.

"Overall I'm pleased. I have to thank the guys on the team for fixing the car from yesterday, when another driver hit my car in the rear in Turn 17. We were worried about how the engine would be after that, but the engine was fine. I have to thank the team for giving me a good car."

Jonathan Goring: "The car felt fairly well balanced. We had a little bit of oversteer. I'm slightly disappointed, but I think I'm doing well for my debut in this series."

Phil Saville: "We had a major improvement in our car's set-up for qualifying, and we'll make a few more changes for the race. The engine was fine; the gearbox was fine; we are just working on our set-up. The guys have worked really hard to get where we are now, and we have high hopes for the race."

Jonny Baker: "I had a problem with my gearshift linkage; something broke or something, and I spun in Turn 1. I'm not sure what happened, but I got to the pits, Roger and Glenn made repairs, and I just made the best of it. We'll get it right for the race and go from there."

Michael Fitzgerald: "We're getting faster every session, and we're having fun. The key for me tomorrow will be survival. I'm not where I want to be time-wise this week, but I've never been in this series before and I haven't been in a race car for eight months. I'm looking forward to doing more testing with the team. I'd also like to race at a circuit that I know well, like Mid-Ohio or Watkins Glen."

-credit: ar

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About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Michael Fitzgerald , Brad Jaeger , James Davison , Phil Saville , Jonathan Goring , Jonny Baker
Teams Team Penske