Saini Claims MX-5 Pole, Inches Closer to Championship in Trois-Rivières
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. (Aug. 18, 2007) -- Increasing his changes of clinching the Championship a round early, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, earned his second-consecutive pole for Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Championship, part of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivères. Pratt Cole, of Salt Lake City, Utah, will start second.
Turning a lap of 1:16.382 (71.687 mph) at the 11-turn, 1.521-mile temporary street course, Saini reset the MX-5 Cup lap record at Trois-Rivieres by nearly 0.02-second and believes the No.28 Autobarn Mazda/SafeRacer.com MX-5 still has more in it for the race.
"The car felt fantastic," Saini said. "We made some changes to the car and the track felt much better this morning. With the cool air it was working great. I actually passed a car during that lap, so there's some more in there."
Saini earns an additional two points for his pole position, which means a third-place finish or better is all it will take to clinch the 2007 MX-5 Cup Championship this weekend. Saini thanked his team for easing the pressure of capturing a win on the tight street circuit.
"I feel like I'm in a position now where I can defend the lead rather than scrap my way up there," Saini continued. "Being on pole at a street course is always a good advantage, so I have to thank the team and everyone that worked so hard."
Earning the highest grid position of his MX-5 Cup career, Cole climbed his way up to the second row on the final lap of the 20-minute session. Driving the No. 88 DEX/Western Companies/RPM MX-5, Cole entered a time of 1:17.073 (71.044 mph).
Saini's teammate and closest Championship rival Andrew Caddell, of Graham Wash., will start third. As qualifying came to a close, it appeared the driver of the No. 30 Team MER/AimSport/Pinnacle Mazda MX-5 would complete the front row with his teammate, entering a time of 1:17.107 (71. 013 mph). Alas, the young driver's spot was snatched by the veteran Cole on the final lap. Currently 43 points behind Saini, a win is essential for Caddell to stop his teammate from clinching the title in the penultimate round.
Jesse Combs, of Woodlands, Texas, will start fourth in his No. 7 Coolgas Ltd./Alara Racing MX-5 with a time of 1:17.164 (70.690 mph). In only his third MX-5 Cup race, Mark Jenkins, of McKinney, Texas, will take up the fifth spot on the grid.
Third at Trois-Riviès last year, Todd Buras will start sixth, alongside the only other driver with a mathematical chance of catching Saini in the final two races, Ara Malkhassian. Matt Cross, Tim Probert and Brad McAllister complete the top ten.
In his second MX-5 Cup appearance, actor and star of Grey's Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey qualified 16th on the grid in the No. 29 AutismSpeaks.org/Team MER MX-5.
Sunday's 45-minute race is scheduled to begin at 9:20 a.m. (EDT). Live timing and notes can be found at www.mx-5cup.com