Denver: Saturday qualifying notes

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ALAN SCIUTO BACKS UP FRIDAY EFFORT BY WINNING FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC POLE POSITION IN JUST SECOND SERIES EVENT DENVER, Colorado (August 13, 2005) -- Youthful speed has been the theme of the weekend over the first two days of ...

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ALAN SCIUTO BACKS UP FRIDAY EFFORT BY WINNING FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC POLE POSITION IN JUST SECOND SERIES EVENT

DENVER, Colorado (August 13, 2005) -- Youthful speed has been the theme of the weekend over the first two days of on-track competition at the BOSPoker.com Toyota Atlantic Grand Prix of Denver (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel -- Saturday, August 20 at 3 p.m. ET).

After Saturday's final round of qualifying for Round 10 of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, the front row is comprised of two drivers who couldn't legally drink the celebratory champagne on the podium should they finish where they start in Sunday's race.

Alan Sciuto (#27 Dean's R/C Products/Sparco), 17, of Orange, California completed a remarkable qualifying performance on the 1.657-mile Denver street circuit as he led the final round of qualifications to claim his first Atlantic pole position in just his second series race. Sciuto's time of 1:08.740 (86.779 mph) topped all 18 drivers on a partially-wet surface Saturday morning. The effort backed up his first-round qualifying run from Friday when he turned the fastest lap overall this weekend at 1:08.692 (86.840 mph). The young rookie will be joined on the front row by 20-year-old German rookie Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors), who's also had a good weekend and owned the second-fastest lap overall for his Brooks Associates Racing team.

Sciuto's Friday performance was the buzz of the Atlantic paddock as the former National Karting Champion who was named North America's top shifter kart driver in 2004 continued to shine for PR1 Motorsports after finishing fourth in his first series start two weeks ago in San Jose.

Wet conditions greeted competitors this morning as a steady rainfall doused the challenging nine-turn course around the Pepsi Center. As the 30-minute final round of qualifying took the green flag, however, the track began to dry as the rain clouds began to dissipate. Sciuto was hoping that the track would remain damp and his impressive time from Friday would stand as the top lap for his first Atlantic pole. That would turn out to be the case, but the scenario didn't play out the way the young racer would've hoped.

As Sciuto sat out the first 17 minutes of qualifying waiting to see if his time would be threatened, the rest of the talented Atlantic field began to lower their times on the rapidly-drying course. Finally, Sciuto attacked the course as competitors began to approach his Friday standard. It didn't take him long to get up to speed and he proved just how good he is on this course as he posted the fastest lap of the session on just his 10th turn around the Pepsi Center.

Estonian racer Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) looked as if he would provide the toughest test for Sciuto as he had the second-fastest Saturday time late in the session. With just one minute remaining in qualifying, however, Kasemets made hard contact with the tire wall in Turn 5, bringing out a red flag and forcing a premature end to qualifying. Kasemets also lost his fast lap as a penalty for stopping the session.

Wirth wound up with the third-fastest time on Saturday but his top lap of 1:08.809 (86.692 mph) from Friday held up as the second quickest time overall, as he secured his second front-row start of his rookie season.

Atlantic series point leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) also saw his quick lap from Friday qualifying hold up as the third fastest lap of the weekend. Zwolsman, who will carry a 33-point lead in the championship over Kasemets into tomorrow's race, clocked in at 1:08.902 (86.575 mph) on Friday for his top time.

After seeing his fast lap, which would've placed him second overall in qualifying, disappear due to his late-session crash, Kasemets wound up fourth with a lap of 1:09.962 (86.500 mph). The second-year driver was one of only five Atlantic runners to top their times from Friday in today's final round of qualifying.

Riding a two-race winning streak to improve to third in the season standings, British rookie racer Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) of Polestar Racing Group will start fifth on Sunday as she was unable to better her fast lap from Friday.

Legge's teammate, Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) earned a sixth-place start, while Mexican driver David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) finished seventh in the qualifying rundown. Albuquerque's Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) was eighth in qualifying, while 20-year-old California rookie Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com) was able to top his Friday fast lap by carding a mark of 1:10.403 (84.729 mph) to qualify ninth. In his second series event, 18-year-old series rookie Ryan Spencer-Smith (#2 DUC Housing Partners) rounded out the top 10.

The Atlantics return to the track for a 15-minute warmup session at 8:30 a.m. MT on Sunday before taking the green flag at 11:30 a.m. in the BOSPoker.com Atlantic Grand Prix of Denver. Follow all of Sunday's action through the official web site of Champ Car's top development series at www.toyotaatlantic.com.

ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES

It is believed that Sciuto is the youngest driver in the history of the Atlantic series to win a pole position.

Sciuto claimed the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's final round of qualifying.

Zwolsman saw his streak of four consecutive pole positions snapped today, but he has now qualified among the top three drivers in nine consecutive events this season.

Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments), who clinched the 2005 Yokohama Tire C2 Cup title last round in San Jose, earned the C2 pole after carding a lap of 1:11.549 (83.372 mph). Sofio was 11th overall in qualifying.

ALAN SCIUTO (#27 Deans R/C Products/Sparco -- PR1 Motorsports): "It was a great qualifying session. The strategy was to wait and see what everyone else was doing. We were waiting for the times to drop to one second from my time and when that happened we decided to go out. I took my tires up to temperature right away and then I saw that I could get a few clear laps so I went for it. (On his performance) I am a little surprised to be that fast right away. I think we just worked really hard and I have a great team. (On his first start from the pole position) I am definitely going to be a little nervous. Like everybody said, it is crucial to make it though the first corner, and then we'll start racing. (On racing in wet conditions) I have a very limited experience in the rain so I am hoping for a dry day."

ANDREAS WIRTH (#8 Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "It was really good in rain conditions. But the track dried up very fast and my car got worse. I had a lot of oversteering and I wasn't happy about it. I was complaining all the time to my engineer on the radio. Maybe we had a problem with the tire pressure because at the end it got better and better. But Tonis (Kasemets) crashed in the last few laps, so I did not get a chance to try and improve. But I am starting from the front row, so everything is possible for tomorrow. (On the weather conditions for tomorrow) If it stays dry, the track and the grip could be just like yesterday. In this case we won't do important changes. We'll just make a few adjustments. (On the race) I just hope to get a good start and to get through the first lap. Then I'll push hard and try and to the race. (On racing in rain conditions) Having raced in Europe for a while, we are used to the rain, and I think it would make it easier to pass people if it rain. So I would not mind it."

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports):"This morning was quite eventful. Practice went well in rain conditions and then it dried, so I slowed down to save the tires for qualifying. But in qualifying, the track was almost completely dry so we decided to come in and change for slicks. But my rea -left tire did not get on and I got stuck for five minutes in the pits. Then it took a while to put the tires up to temperature so I lost a lot of time. I improved my times quickly and maybe I would have had a chance to be faster than yesterday if Tonis (Kasemets) had not crashed. (On the changes on his car) I think that the car is better. We made good changes. The grip was quite similar than yesterday grip, but the air was a bit cooler, so I think the engine was working better. (On tomorrow's race) Hopefully, everybody will keep cool and we will all make it in one piece through the first lap. I know we have a good car and it will be a fun race. I don't have much experience in the rain with this car but if it does rain, I think it will be an interesting race."

-atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Katherine Legge , Kyle Kelley , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Alan Sciuto , Ryan Spencer-Smith , Al Unser III