Denver: Friday qualifying notes

ATLANTIC ROOKIE ALAN SCIUTO LEADS OPENING ROUND OF DENVER QUALIFYING IN ONLY SECOND SERIES START DENVER, Colorado (August 12, 2005) -- While most 17-year-olds are spending their summer goofing off or toiling away at difficult manual jobs, ...


DENVER, Colorado (August 12, 2005) -- While most 17-year-olds are spending their summer goofing off or toiling away at difficult manual jobs, California native Alan Sciuto (#27 Dean's R/C Products/Sparco) is busy establishing himself as one of the fastest rising stars in North America's top open-wheel development series. In only his second start in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, Sciuto opened more than a few eyes on Friday, leading the opening round of qualifying for this weekend's Atlantic Grand Prix of Denver.

Racing for PR1 Motorsports, Sciuto joined the Toyota Atlantic Championship last round on the difficult San Jose street circuit. The 17-year-old former National Karting Champion who was named North America's top shifter kart driver in 2004, qualified seventh in his Atlantic debut and finished fourth on race day, pushing series points leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) for third place all the way to the checkered flag.

Sciuto appears to have loftier goals this weekend in just his second Atlantic race. He wound up fourth in the morning practice but he blistered a lap of 1:08.692 (86.840 mph) with just two minutes left in today's 30-minute session to claim the provisional pole by more than a tenth-of-a-second over the next closest qualifier. Sciuto earned a championship point for his impressive performance and, perhaps most importantly on the challenging 1.657-mile street course around Denver's Pepsi Center, he secured a front-row starting spot for Sunday's Round 10 of 12 in the Toyota Atlantic series (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, August 20 at 3 p.m. ET).

If it weren't for Sciuto's pole-winning effort, Friday would've belonged to German rookie Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors). The 20-year-old Brooks Associates Racing driver led the morning practice session and led qualifying for a time before winding up with the second-fastest lap overall at 1:08.809 (86.692 mph). Wirth knows the Denver track well. He earned his first pole position and two top-four results last season in a Formula BMW USA doubleheader in the Mile High city, en route to winning the series title.

Zwolsman said he struggled a bit with the grip levels on the popular street circuit, but the speedy Dutchman still managed to post the third-quickest lap of the day. He turned a time of 1:08.902 (86.575 mph) on his 24th and final lap of qualifying as he tries to win his fifth consecutive Atlantic pole position in his superb rookie season.

The man who's chasing Zwolsman for the Atlantic championship lead finished right behind his rival in Friday's qualifying rundown. Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) entered this weekend trailing Zwolsman by 33 points in the series standings with just three races remaining. Kasemets was fourth in provisional qualifying with a top lap of 1:09.142 (86.275 mph).

The hottest driver in the Atlantic series over the past month carded the fifth-quickest time on Friday. Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) of Great Britain has captured the last two series races to rise from fifth to third place in the season standings. Legge clocked in at 1:09.147 (86.268 mph) for Polestar Racing Group as she tries to continue her recent hot streak in her first visit to Denver.

Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design), Legge's teammate in the Polestar stable, owned a top lap of 1:09.188 (86.217 mph) to finish sixth in provisional qualifying.

After tying his best career finish of second place in Round 9 at San Jose, David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) took turns leading the first practice in Denver before finishing second in the morning session. The Mexican rookie wasn't quite able to carry that same success into the afternoon as he finished seventh in qualifying at 1:09.219 (86.179 mph).

American Al Unser III (#10 Racing) finished 10th in his first Atlantic race in Denver last season and he earned an eighth-place qualifying result Friday, posting a time of 1:10.033 (85.177 mph). California rookie Kyle Kelley (#24 UP finished with a fast lap of 1:10.707 (84.365 mph) to rank ninth in qualifying for McAtee Motorsports, while Ryan Spencer-Smith (#2 DUC Housing Partners) posted a top-10 qualifying result in just his second Atlantic race, finishing 10th in the order at 1:11.024 (83.989 mph).

Saturday will bring only an extended morning on-track session for the Toyota Atlantic machines. The cars will hit the Denver streets at 9:20 a.m. MT for a 15-minute practice. That session will be followed by the final round of qualifying, slated for 9:45-10:15 a.m. Follow all of this weekend's action from Denver through the official web site of Champ Car's top development series at


* Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) of Mathiasen Motorsports posted the fastest time among the five C2 competitors this weekend with a lap of 1:11.549 (83.372 mph) that put him 11th overall. Sofio clinched the 2005 Yokohama Tire C2 Cup championship last time out in San Jose.

* Brian McAtee (#19 Cosby Oil/ Superior Auto Care) of McAtee Motorsports was unable to compete on Friday after experiencing gearbox problems on his car. The team hopes to have the problem corrected in time for Saturday's on-track activity.

* On Saturday, Zwolsman will be looking to keep alive his streak of eight consecutive top-three qualifying efforts. The only race this season where Zwolsman did not start among the top three was the season opener in Long Beach when he started 19th after his car failed a post-qualifying technical inspection.

Quotes from the top three drivers from today's qualifying session follow:

ALAN SCIUTO (#27 Deans R/C Products/Sparco -- PR1 Motorsports): (On his background) "I started with go-karts for five or six years and I was ranked top (National Shifter Kart Driver in North America) last year, so we decided it was time for me to try and move up to cars. I got a Skip Barber Scholarship and I raced in that series for the most part of the year and then, we thought I should try the Toyota Atlantics. It is a good series with lots of great drivers. We had a good test before San Jose. The team got excited and I got excited too. And we had a very good weekend in San Jose that comforted us. (On the track) This is a very nice track and it came to me right away. It is pretty wide open and it is kind of loose in many places. It comes back to karting a little bit. I like to drive in pretty loose conditions and I think that this track suits me well."

ANDREAS WIRTH (#8 Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "It is a great track. I like it very much. It is definitely more wide open than the San Jose track. Overall, we have a great car. The set up is good but we still need to find two or three tenths of a second. I caught some traffic in the last few laps, so I am happy I could still ran a fast lap. It was good but not perfect, and I can live with second place. I don't know if I would have been faster without the traffic, so I don't know if I could have had the pole position. I am sure there is more in the car and we need to find the speed for tomorrow. (On the advantage to know the track) It is good to get to a place and not to have to learn the track. You know what to expect for each corner. It is definitely an advantage. I am looking forward the next few races because I raced there before."

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports): "This morning we struggled a little bit. It is almost always the case when there is no rubber on the track. I was expecting more rubber this afternoon for qualifying but the track is still very slippery. So we've got some work to do to try and improve the grip on the car. We are going to turn some thing around, I guess. It is really important to start up front because it gives you the best chances to finish in the top, especially on a street course. That's why we are going to work hard tonight to find some solutions that work for us. (On the track) It is a pretty nice track. I like it. It is not too narrow and they've made some changes over the years to make it better. They did a good job putting this event together."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Katherine Legge , Kyle Kelley , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Brian McAtee , Alan Sciuto , Ryan Spencer-Smith , Al Unser III