Long Beach: Saturday qualifying notes

BESSETTE CLAIMS ATLANTIC POLE POSITION IN LONG BEACH AFTER ZWOLSMAN LOSES LAP TIMES LONG BEACH, California (April 9, 2005) -- A dramatic story had a less-than-happy ending Saturday for European racer Charles Zwolsman ( ...


LONG BEACH, California (April 9, 2005) -- A dramatic story had a less-than-happy ending Saturday for European racer Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) in his first weekend of competition in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

The 25-year-old native of The Netherlands appeared to have claimed the pole position for Sunday's 2005 Atlantic season opener on the streets of Long Beach, but a post-qualifying technical inspection revealed a violation in the rookie's Condor Motorsports entry. As a result of the infraction, Zwolsman lost all of his posted times for the weekend and instead of starting from the front of the field, he will start at the back of the 19-car grid.

Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) reaped the benefits of Zwolsman's misfortune as the first-year Canadian driver earned the pole position on the strength of his fast lap of 1:19.375 (89.257 mph). Bessette, who also led Friday's first-round of Atlantic qualifying, will start from the point in Sunday's 32-lap Imperial Capital Bank Challenge for the Toyota Atlantic Championship (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. ET). After earning a point for winning the provisional pole, the 23-year-old Bessette now owns the first two championship points of the season and he also claimed the $1,000 Toyota pole award for securing his first career series pole.

Brooks Associates Racing rookie teammates Andreas Wirth (#8 KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows and Doors) and Fernando Rees (#10 Bahia/Natal/Santa Catarina) will both enjoy stellar starting positions in their Atlantic debuts on Sunday. Wirth will start second after recording a fast lap of 1:19.641 (88.959 mph) while Rees recorded a time of 1:19.723 (88.868 mph) and will line up third on the grid.

American racer Chris Dyson will enjoy his best starting position in his third Atlantic start. The New York native posted a time of 1:19.870 (88.704 mph) and will take tomorrow's green flag in fourth position. Another American driver, Rocky Moran Jr., will make his fifth career Long Beach start coming from fifth position after he qualified with a time of 1:19.903 (88.668 mph) in the top C2 class entry in the field.

After running among the top three drivers in each Atlantic session of the weekend, second-year driver Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) also experienced qualifying misfortune on Saturday. The Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis driver got together with rookie Brian McAtee (#19 Superior Warranty/Fleet Auto Sales) on only his fifth lap of the session and was forced to sit for the remainder of qualifying. His best lap of 1:19.994 (88.567 mph) will enable him to start sixth on Sunday.

First-year racer Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) also was involved in an incident in qualifying. The talented British driver was running strong in the 30-minute session before she tagged the wall in Turn 9 and lost her fast lap time for causing a stoppage in qualifying. She still posted a time of 1:20.027 (88.530 mph) and will start seventh in her Atlantic debut.

Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/Pauline's Antiques/Toyota of Huntington Beach/T. Christy) qualified eighth after recording a best lap of 1:21.363 (87.076 mph), while Dan Selznick posted a mark of 1:21.963 (86.439 mph) in ninth position. Rounding out the top 10 was Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools) who carded a fast lap of 1:22.459 (85.919 mph).

Out of 19 drivers in the field, 17 improved their times from Friday provisional qualifying. Kasemets did not improve his effort from Friday due to his limited time on track and his teammate and owner, Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction), also failed to better his time from Friday as he fought mechanical problems for most of Saturday's session.

On Sunday morning the Atlantic cars will hit the 11-turn, 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit at 8 a.m. PT for a 15-minute warm-up. The opening-round of the 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama will take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. PT with the race scheduled for 32 laps (62.976 miles) or 50 minutes.

Quotes from Saturday's top two qualifiers, as well as Charles Zwolsman, follow:

* ANTOINE BESSETTE (#3 Unik Auto Design) was second quickest with a time of 1:19.375 (89.257 mph): "I'm very happy with my second place because I know I have a lot more in my car. The timing of the red flag was not good. (Asked if he was ready for the start at Long Beach, which can be harrowing) I think so, but I'm going to give more thought to it. I can't tell you what I am thinking because he (Zwolsman) is sitting right here (laughing). (With 15 rookies in the field,) I think we will all be learning each other. But, I think we are all good guys."

* ANDREAS WIRTH (#8 KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows & Doors) qualified third with a time of 1:19.641 (88.959 mph): "This morning, I struggled a little bit with the Fountain Corner (laughing, he landed in the flowers). I had a little bit of a problem in qualifying early because we were set up for new tires and I was on old tires. When we put on the new tires -- after the red flag -- then I was able to do better, but not as well as I wanted to. My goal tomorrow is a top three and I think I can reach that if nothing happens. I am very happy to be here in Toyota Atlantic after my championship season last year (Formula BMW USA). I lost 25 minutes from my (practice) session this morning but I am very happy to be here (third)."

* CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports) who lost the pole position after his car failed technical inspection: "I'm very disappointed, obviously. At first it was like a dream come true to have the pole and have a positive outlook to the race. Then this news comes to bring you down. But it is nothing that I can control. I'm already thinking about what I can do tomorrow to improve my position and I will try to make the best out of it."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Rocky Moran Jr. , Tom Nastasi , Katherine Legge , Kyle Kelley , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Daniel Selznick , Andreas Wirth , Fernando Rees , Dan Cobb , Chris Dyson