GRAF MOVES ONE STEP CLOSER TO TRANS-AM TITLE WITH FIFTH POLE IN MONTREAL TRANS-AM DEBUT
MONTREAL, Quebec (Aug. 26, 2005) -- Klaus Graf took yet another step closer to history by earning his fifth pole of the season Friday for Saturday's 2005 Trans-Am season finale, part of the Molson Indy Montreal. Graf, who has already clinched the Rookie of the Year title, now needs only to finish sixth or better in the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR in tomorrow's race to clinch the Drivers' Championship.
Randy Ruhlman, who sits second in points, qualified second in the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Canada Chevrolet Corvette. Greg Pickett, who is currently third in points in the No. 6 Cytomax/Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR timed third, but his car failed post-qualifying inspection and he will start last on the grid. Due to the disqualification, Paul Gentilozzi (No. 1 Jaguar R Performance XKR) moves to third, ahead of John Baucom (No. 86 SoftwareToolbox.com/EZe.com Ford Mustang) and Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Transporter 2 -- The Movie Jaguar XKR). Drissi will start first tomorrow due to Trans-Am's Fast Five invert, while Graf will start fifth. Paul Fix won the GT-1 pole in the No. 77 Stop Flex/Computer Systems Centre/Pennzoil Ford Mustang).
Graf turned in an inaugural record 1:39.729-minute time (97.789 miles per hour) and earned three bonus points for winning the Jaguar Pole Award. Graf now has a 14-point lead in the Drivers' Championship, ahead of Ruhlman and he has the chance tomorrow to become the first German Drivers' Champion in Trans-Am's 40-year history, as well as becoming the first rookie to win the title since Dorsey Schroeder in 1989. Interestingly, Graf's points lead is just one marker short of the bonus points he earned for his pole efforts this year.
"We just tried to get the car better and better every time we went out," said Graf. "Sometimes it's easy to get confused and chase the race track, which we didn't do. I like qualifying. You have to go out and give it two or three really fast laps. Going into the race, though, you have to take a different approach. In qualifying, you have to be really aggressive, whereas in the race, you have to be patient and take care of the equipment. It's going to be a whole different story tomorrow.
"It feels good to get five pole positions for Rocketsports," added Graf. "I don't think I ever had that many poles in a season. It also feels nice to gain the three bonus points."
Ruhlman, who will start fourth tomorrow, suffered a mechanical failure during second-round practice and just made the start of the qualifying session. He led for a good portion of the session before being eclipsed by Graf's time.
"The lack of grip in the first session left us a little bit behind in the second session and then we broke a clutch," said Ruhlman. "We lost a bunch of the second session, and we were happy we were able to get the car back together for qualifying. The track really gripped up and the direction we went was good. The team asked if I had anything more in the middle of the session and I said: I have something.' So, I put together another flier and we got it done for a while. Then I came in and they said Well, he got you again.' I looked at the timing screen then I looked at (team owner) Jim (Derhaag), and I said: I had some, but I didn't have that.' The car feels good and it should be a good race tomorrow.
"Unfortunately, for us, it's going to take a little bit more than a fast car and a fast drive," added Ruhlman. "We're going to need a little help from (above). But we'll try to make as interesting as we can."
Fix was pleased with the GT-1 pole. He will start seventh tomorrow.
"We've been making changes all day, from the first session on," said Fix. "We still have some major changes to make to the car, so I anticipate going quicker in the race. I like this track. It's different. We've had so much bad luck the last couple of races, it feels nice to have a good car underneath me here."
The session was stopped for four minutes, 28 seconds when a groundhog stopped in the middle of the frontstretch. Qualifying resumed after the Champ Car safety team removed the rodent from the racing surface.
Final practice is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m. Tomorrow's race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. EDT and will air on SPEED Channel on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. EDT.