KASEMETS LEADS WAY, LEGGE SECOND AND BESSETTE THIRD IN EDMONTON TOYOTA ATLANTIC FIRST-ROUND QUALIFYING EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 15, 2005) -- It wasn't a lot of ground to make up, but every single point counts in a tight title race and...
KASEMETS LEADS WAY, LEGGE SECOND AND BESSETTE THIRD IN EDMONTON TOYOTA ATLANTIC FIRST-ROUND QUALIFYING
EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 15, 2005) -- It wasn't a lot of ground to make up, but every single point counts in a tight title race and Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) was happy to earn the championship point for leading the first round of qualifying Friday for the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama race in Edmonton.
Kasemets, the second-year native Estonian racer, found his speed at just the right time in the 30-minute qualifying run for Sunday's Round 8 of the Atlantic championship -- the Napa Auto Parts Presents the Toyota Atlantic Challenge (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, July 23 at 2 p.m. ET). After finishing fourth in the opening practice session of the weekend Friday and sitting middle of the pack for much of qualifying, Kasemets ripped off a lap of 1:07.678 (104.950 mph) on the challenging and fast 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway airport circuit with just two minutes left in the session. The lap represents a new track record at the course, that's new to the Atlantic schedule this season.
Perhaps most importantly, Kasemets also earned a point for leading today's session and he now trails series leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Landtran Systems, Inc.) 186-180 in the tight point standings. Zwolsman owned the fastest time for a good portion of qualifying but suffered suspension damage to his car with about 10 minutes remaining in qualifying and was forced to pull into pit lane while his team made repairs. With rain in the forecast for the final round of qualifying on Saturday, Kasemets also helped his cause by locking up a front-row starting spot for his efforts on Friday.
A capacity crowd of 55,722 Canadian race fans turned out on Friday, welcoming not only Atlantics, but also the cars of the Champ Car World Series and the Trans-Am Series Road Racing Series to Edmonton.
The enthusiastic faithful witnessed Kasemets' clutch qualifying performance, as well as solid efforts from two more of open-wheel racing's top up-and-coming stars. British driver Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) had an impressive day for Polestar Racing Group. The 24-year-old racer that made history when she became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America, capturing the checkered flag at Long Beach in April, turned in her best qualifying result of the season on Friday. After carding the second-fastest time in practice this morning, Legge backed it up in qualifying as she earned a top time of 1:07.826 (104.721 mph) on her second-to-last lap of the session. The time left her trailing only Kasemets in the qualifying rundown.
Legge's Polestar teammate, Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design), completed the top three from first-round qualifying. Fresh off his first series win last weekend at Toronto, Bessette showed his speed and confidence early, leading the first practice session of the weekend. He also paced qualifying for a time before settling for the third-fastest lap of 1:07.846 (104.690 mph).
Looking to extend his impressive streak of five consecutive podium finishes this weekend, Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) finished fourth in the qualifying results. He owned a fast lap of 1:07.978 (104.487 mph).
Zwolsman, despite his mechanical issues, wound up with a time of 1:08.508 (103.678 mph), good enough for fifth overall in provisional qualifying. The Dutch rookie has qualified among the top three in the last six consecutive races.
Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) turned in a time of 1:09.026 (102.900 mph) to qualify sixth in today's session. Unser has qualified inside the top 10 in each one of his five series events this season.
Following up on his career-best second-place finish last weekend in Toronto, David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) of Mexico was clocked at 1:09.794 (101.768 mph) as he finished seventh in the order.
Montreal native Eric Jensen (#2 Konica Minolta) had the eight-fastest time today of 1:11.229 (99.718 mph) while another Canadian racer, Daryl Leiske (#63 Speedway Motors) of Bite Racing, was the fastest C2 class qualifier. British Columbia's Leiske was ninth overall after checking in with a top lap of 1:13.808 (96.233 mph).
Saturday will find the Atlantic cars back on track for a 30-minute practice beginning at 12:30 p.m. MT. The final round of qualifying in Edmonton will take the green flag Saturday at 4 p.m. Follow the Atlantic action all weekend long by visiting the official series web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com and clicking on the Timing link on the front page of the site.
Quotes from the top three drivers from today's qualifying session follow:
TONIS KASEMETS (#6 Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "The car we came in with was very good. All we did was make small improvements to get the balance that I like. We know which way to go to make it even better, but we need to be careful not to overdo it though. (On the session) The session got progressively better, with more grip. I also found new lines that I will have to memorize them for tomorrow, and then you trust the track better."
KATHERINE LEGGE (#12 PKV Racing -- Polestar Racing Group): "Qualifying went very well. We had a really good car. The team always gives me a great car. I think I had the car for the pole today. (On her mindset) Since Toronto, I have changed my mental approach and I took Kevin Kalkhoven's advice that was: 'Go and have fun again in your driving. We are not curing cancer here.' So, I've gone back to the mindset I had when I started, and I am now enjoying it again and doing much better."
ANTOINE BESSETTE (#3 Unik Auto Design -- Polestar Racing): "I am happy with qualifying, but we could have found the two tenth of a second if I'd had a few more laps. (On the track) The track is really fast and the corners are tricky, but once you learn them, you gain more confidence and you can go flat out in a few corners. Overall, I am happy but we can still get more out of the car, as long as I am not stuck in traffic."