HOUSTON (October 5, 2001) -- Mother nature gave the drivers of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship a rude welcome back today in Houston after a month long break from racing. Showers drenched the track shortly before the first qualifying...
HOUSTON (October 5, 2001) -- Mother nature gave the drivers of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship a rude welcome back today in Houston after a month long break from racing. Showers drenched the track shortly before the first qualifying session of the weekend, causing drivers to tip-toe around the 1.527-mile temporarily street course in Houston, Texas.
Argentina's Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) edged out 2001 Atlantic Champion, Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) with a rain slowed time of 1:15.729 seconds (72.590 mph), nearly ten seconds slower than Andrew Bordin's 2000 qualifying record of 1:06.491 seconds (82.676 mph). Orsi's time of 1:15.961 seconds (72.369 mph) was good enough for second going into tomorrow's second qualifying session. With the threat of additional showers tomorrow, today's times could be good enough to stand.
Martin Basso is attempting to win his second pole of the season after blistering the track record earlier this year while winning the pole in Cleveland. Basso is also hot on the trail of David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift), standing 14 points behind him for second place in the Championship. Rutledge was fourth in today's session with a time of 1:16.324 seconds (72.025 mph) Coming into this year's event at Houston, Orsi has won four straight poles coming at Chicago, Trois-Rivieres, Road America, and Vancouver.
"I'm really happy," said Basso. "I think we have a great car for a wet track. I'm hoping for more rain tomorrow because of how good the car was this afternoon. The car got a little bit worse as the track started to dry out toward the end of the session."
Orsi was on the other end of the spectrum picking up speed as the track dried out. "I was trying hard, giving everything I had because we don't know what the conditions will be tomorrow," said Orsi. "The track was getting quicker and quicker and I would have liked to have one or two more laps."
Despite the inclement weather and slick track, the session stayed under green flag conditions for the entire 30-mintues of the session. The 2001 Atlantic class has become quite proficient at wet course driving with Houston making the fifth event of the season that has had at least one session take place on a wet surface.
Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift), who is trying to nail down the Rookie of Year title this weekend, was third fastest with a time of 1:16.094 seconds (72.242 mph). Hand is also in the chase with Basso for second place overall in the Championship points. Hand has had his best results this year on temporary street courses with his first career Atlantic win coming in the last month's race in Vancouver. Hand has also shown a liking to driving on a wet track, after nearly stealing one of Hoover Orsi's five wins on a wet day in Cleveland.
"The wet session was not what we were looking for since we haven't been here, so we didn't really know which way to go on the car in the first place," said Hand. "But the wet kind of evens everything out. We are pretty happy with third."
Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift), who is 22 points behind Hand for the Rookie of the Year title, was fifth this afternoon with a time of 1:16.511 seconds (71.848 mph).
The CART Toyota Atlantic teams are back on track on Saturday morning at 9:10 a.m. CST for another 30 minute practice session with final qualifying starting later that same day at 1:00 p.m. CST.