Long Beach: Saturday qualifying notes

ANDREAS WIRTH OF GERMANY ESTABLISHES NEW ATLANTIC LONG BEACH COURSE RECORD ON WAY TO SECURING FIRST POLE OF SEASON LONG BEACH, California (April 8, 2006) -- One day made a big difference for Atlantic racer Andreas Wirth ( ...


LONG BEACH, California (April 8, 2006) -- One day made a big difference for Atlantic racer Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) of Germany.

The 21-year-old series sophomore earned his second career pole Saturday in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, harnessing the speed that he's shown through the first two days of competition at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Wirth clocked a top time of 1:16.082 (93.121 mph) with about six minutes remaining in the 30-minute qualifying session and just two minutes later rookie Luis Schiavo (#8 Asfaltadora Maracay/Energy Freight/UP Racing) made contact with a tire wall on the Long Beach street circuit. The incident and the ensuing cleanup brought a premature end to the qualifying session as Wirth emerged with the top time among all 29 Atlantic drivers this weekend and will start on the point in tomorrow's Atlantic season opening race in Long Beach (tape-delayed on SPEED on Sunday, April 16 at 1 p.m. ET).

The blistering lap also established a new series one-lap record at Long Beach, surpassing the mark of 1:16.267 (92.895 mph) set by former series champion and current Champ Car driver AJ Allmendinger in 2003. The result marked a sharp contrast to Friday when Wirth crashed halfway through qualifying after running among the top drivers, eventually finishing 16th overall.

Raphael Matos (#6 Pro Works) was in hot pursuit of Wirth for the top time of the day as the first-year Brazilian Sierra Sierra Enterprises pilot wound up with the second-fastest time overall of 1:16.149 (93.039 mph) -- a mark that also topped Allmendinger's previous course record. Matos led the morning Atlantic practice session at Long Beach and battled for the fastest lap throughout the course of the day.

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) will start second in Sunday's race after claiming Friday's provisional pole. The Team Australia rookie carded the third-fastest lap in the second round of qualifying, getting around the 1.968-mile circuit in 1:16.575 (92.521 mph).

After finishing third in Friday qualifying, American Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) will start on the outside of the front row Sunday, claiming fourth in the qualifying order with a lap of 1:16.583 (92.511 mph). Wirth's Forsythe Championship Racing teammate James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) completed the top-five qualifiers after he carded a time of 1:16.589 (92.504 mph).

The youngest driver in the largest Atlantic field in seven years competing this weekend, 16-year-old Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK) of the Forsythe team, posted a time of 1:16.775 (92.280 mph) for the sixth-fastest lap. American Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) was seventh in the order at 1:16.843 (92.198 mph) while South Africa's Stephen Simpson (#14 Western Union/Diamon-Fusion/Gelles Racing) was eighth at 1:16.862 (92.176 mph).

With a lap of 1:16.871 (92.165 mph), Norbert Siedler (#10 Palfinger/Sonax/Remus) of Austria qualified ninth while British racer Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) rounded out the top 10 after posting a time of 1:17.052 (91.948 mph).

The top 10 drivers in qualifying posted times that were separated by less than a second while 27 of the 29 drivers topped their qualifying times from Friday.

Sunday, the Atlantics will hit the track at 8:35 a.m. PT for a 15-minute warm-up session. The first green flag of 2006 will fly for the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic race on the streets of Long Beach at 10:35 a.m. The race is scheduled for 32 laps (62.976 miles) or 50 minutes. Follow all of the action from Long Beach on the Internet through the live timing link on the official web site of North America's top open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.


* Nine of the top 11 drivers in the final qualifying rundown are series rookies. Only Wirth and Bomarito among the top runners are series veterans.

* American veteran and 1997 Atlantic series champion Alex Barron (#21 The Room Store) not only qualified 12th for tomorrow's season opener, he also raced himself on Saturday. The native of Menifee, California competed in the Grand-Am Rolex Series race at Long Beach on Saturday evening as he stepped in to the #19 Playboy/Uniden Racing car for injured driver Memo Gidley. A former Atlantic driver himself, Gidley suffered multiple back injuries after a warmup accident in Turn 1 this morning. Barron finished 21st in the race.

Quotes from the top three drivers in qualifying follow:

Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) of Forsythe Championship Racing: "I'm very happy. Yesterday I was pissed with myself because I tried too hard. We had problems with traffic, but it's the same for everyone and we just tried to put a lap together. We have 30 cars and it's a street course, it will happen the same on other street courses. I still had some time left in my fastest lap and I think we look good for tomorrow."

Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia: "The car was pretty good this morning and I thought we might get the pole position. I struggled with traffic and I did not find a clear lap, but I think we will be competitive in the race. We're looking for a win."

Rafael Matos (#6 Pro Works) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: "After this morning, we were pretty confident. We made some minor changes in the car and it felt really good, even with cold tires in the beginning of the session. We struggled a little bit at the start with traffic. I just couldn't find a good spot on track. I have a really good race car, but I'm a little disappointed because we couldn't show all the speed we had."


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Memo Gidley , Graham Rahal , Alex Barron , Jonathan Bomarito , Norbert Siedler , Andreas Wirth , Richard Philippe , Simon Pagenaud