SIMON PAGENAUD LEADS QUALIFYING FOR SECOND RACE AT CLEVELAND TO CLAIM FIRST ATLANTIC POLE CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 24, 2006) -- After leading the opening round of qualifying in three out of the first four events of the season, Simon Pagenaud (...
SIMON PAGENAUD LEADS QUALIFYING FOR SECOND RACE AT CLEVELAND TO CLAIM FIRST ATLANTIC POLE
CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 24, 2006) -- After leading the opening round of qualifying in three out of the first four events of the season, Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) finally found himself sitting atop the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda leaderboard at the end of final qualifying on Saturday morning.
Pagenaud, the 22-year-old Team Australia Atlantic rookie, has made a habit this season of coming out quickly and establishing himself as the early favorite at tracks that are new to him in his first year of racing in North America. He topped provisional-round qualifying at Long Beach, Monterrey and Portland but watched as other drivers knocked him off the pole in the final round of qualifications. With a doubleheader race weekend on tap this weekend at the Gehl Atlantic Championship of Cleveland (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 9), each race has only one round of qualifying. Pagenaud made the most of his one shot, topping the 30-minute morning qualifying with a track-record fast lap of 1:04.678 (117.221 mph) on his 15th turn around the airport course.
Local favorite and 17-year-old rookie Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of New Albany, Ohio, fell just short of claiming his third series pole in his remarkable rookie season. The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie was just under a tenth of a second off of Pagenaud's time as he recorded a fast lap of 1:04.728 (117.130 mph) on his final qualifying lap. By qualifying second for Sunday's Round 6 of the Atlantic Championship, however, the son of racing legend Bobby Rahal earned his third front-row start in six events this season.
Another talented series youngster, Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK), turned in his top qualifying effort of his rookie year. The 16-year-old Forsythe Racing pilot finished with the third fastest time in morning qualifying with a mark of 1:04.886 (116.845 mph). The top three qualifiers all surpassed the previous one-lap Atlantic qualifying record at Cleveland. Current Champ Car driver AJ Allmendinger held the previous record of 1:04.927 (116.771 mph), established in 2003.
After running among the top three in Friday's Race 1 qualifying, American first-year racer Steve Ott (#22 MSR Houston) turned in another solid performance on Saturday morning. The 25-year-old racer wound up second in qualifying for the second day in a row, this time securing a fast lap of 1:04.961 (116.710 mph).
Series point leader Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) won his third career Atlantic pole on Friday while topping qualifying for the first race of the weekend. He followed that up with a fifth-place qualifying result on Saturday, clocking a time of 1:04.981 (116.674 mph).
The top 12 qualifiers from Saturday all finished within a second of each other on the timing sheets.
Round 5 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship will take the green flag in the standing start format this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET. It will mark the first standing start in the series since the 1998 season. The second race of the weekend will get underway on Sunday at 12 p.m. Both races are scheduled for 32 laps or 50 minutes. Follow all of this weekend's action from Cleveland through the Live Timing link at www.champcaratlantic.com.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
* Rookie drivers occupied 12 of the 14 top times in Saturday's qualifying session.
Quotes from the top three qualifiers on Saturday follow:
Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia: "It took us a long time to take the pole. The good thing is that we are fast at every track. I think we will be very strong during the whole year. This has given me a lot of confidence. I have to thank my mechanics because they worked very late last night (to repair his car that was damaged in Friday's qualifying). Obviously it worked as the car was good this morning. I struggled a bit in the traffic. It was hard to find a clear lap, but we did it. (On avoiding contact) I think the standing start is a good thing. It should be safer for the tricky first corner."
Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing: "We had some problems yesterday, with the short session. Today the car felt good. It's not quite where we want to be, but we're still quick. If it goes right at the beginning we should be able to move up. This is our weekend to bounce back from Portland. I think we have a good car and a good shot. (On what he needs to do to to win) My car is very reactive to the bumps and I am having trouble hanging on. It's hard to drive a car to a level that it's not at. We have quite a bit of work to do, but it's not out of our reach. The standing start could create quite a mess and I hope I get through cleanly. (On what he would do if he won the championship and the $2 million Champ Car Champion's bonus) It would be a difficult situation to be in. Ever since I was little, Formula One is where I wanted to be. It would be tough passing up the two million dollars, but to get to Formula One is very difficult."
Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK) of Forsythe Championship Racing: "I've been struggling a lot this year and I really have to thank the team. They've been putting a lot of pressure on me to move forward. This isn't the pole or winning a race, but it's definitely an improvement. It's been difficult being 30th in the championship with only 24 cars running (this weekend). Finishing one out of four races is tough. Long Beach was my fault. I put it in the tire wall. The rest was just bad luck. But, I kept my head down and this is a good result for me. (On the track) It's really fun. It's fast."