PERERA CLAIMS FIRST CAREER CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POLE POSITION UNDER RAPIDLY-CHANGING CONDITIONS FOR FINAL QUALIFYING AT CHAMP CAR MONT-TREMBLANT MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- After knocking on the door over the past few weeks...
PERERA CLAIMS FIRST CAREER CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP POLE POSITION UNDER RAPIDLY-CHANGING CONDITIONS FOR FINAL QUALIFYING AT CHAMP CAR MONT-TREMBLANT
MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- After knocking on the door over the past few weeks in the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) picked up his first career Atlantic pole position in final qualifying for Sunday's Champ Car Mont-Tremblant (ESPN360.com, Live, 11:30 a.m. ET).
Under weather conditions that included a light rain shower at the beginning of the session, sunshine in the middle of the session and a slightly heavier shower that effectively ended the session early, Perera posted a best lap at 1:26.426 (109.175) in his Condor Motorsports Mazda-Cosworth/Swift. He eclipsed a previous career-best qualifying result of second at Long Beach with his first Cooper Tire Pole Award, and he will line up from a top-three starting spot for the fifth time in seven races this season. The Frenchman also earns a championship point, moving him to within five points of Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) in the race for Rookie of the Year honors. Perera is the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in all six previous races this season.
Perera will be joined on the front row by points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks). The Brazilian driver could muster just the fourth-quickest time in final qualifying, but starts from the front row by virtue of his provisional pole-winning performance on Friday. It is Matos' fifth front-row qualifying performance of the season and he will be looking for his fifth victory of the season in the Champ Car Mont-Tremblant. Matos' best lap in final qualifying was 1:27.139 (108.282 mph).
Starting third, but turning the second-fastest time of final qualifying was Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) at 1:27.054 (108.388 mph). It was also an Atlantic career-best qualifying performance for Ricci, topping previous best starts of sixth at Cleveland and Las Vegas. The Conquest Racing driver's best race result to date was a fourth-place outing at Cleveland last weekend.
Wickens wound up third-quickest on the day and will start fourth with a lap at 1:27.102 (108.328 mph). It is the Canadian's fifth top-seven qualifying result in seven races, and he enters Sunday's race looking for his sixth top-five result of the season. He claimed his first Atlantic victory in the first race of a doubleheader at Portland International Raceway earlier this month.
Matos' Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) completed the top five with a lap at 1:27.144 (108.276 mph). It will be just the second time in seven races this season that Hinchcliffe will not start from the front row. However, he has finished inside the top-seven positions in each of the first six races this year with best results of second in both races of the Portland doubleheader. He owns one career Champ Car Atlantic victory.
The top 10 cars in final qualifying were covered by less than one second.
* Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton)--the only woman in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship this season--qualified a career-best sixth with a lap at 1:27.222 (108.179 mph). Her previous best starting spots of eighth came in the first race of the Portland doubleheader and last weekend at Cleveland.
* Local racer Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) remained seventh at the conclusion of final qualifying with a best lap at 1:27.307 (108.074 mph). The Saint-Eustache, Quebec native is making his fourth Atlantic start of the season and is looking for his second career Atlantic victory. Lacroix won the second race of the Portland doubleheader, in what was just his second start.
* The top 10 drivers in the field represented seven different nationalities. There are three Canadians and two Americans in the top 10, in addition to one driver each from France, Italy, Brazil, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
Quotes from the top-four drivers on the grid follow below:
FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsports) of Condor Motorsports:
"I'm really happy because I lost a lot of pole positions this year. Rafa (Matos) is a tough guy and for sure it was difficult for me. This weekend is really great. The team has done a great job and I really like the track. It's more of a Europe style, so for me it's great. It's long and has fast corners, so it's all about driving fast in the car. Yesterday, we had some problems in qualifying with the traffic and some problems with the gears, but since this morning, we showed that our car is really quick. I dominated all day, so that's really good. I really want to thank my team and my sponsor, Everflux, for giving me the shot to drive in America this year."
RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises:
"I was quite disappointed this session, not only with my car, but with some drivers that don't have any respect. What can I do? You cannot control the other drivers. My car felt pretty good in the beginning of the session, and we were expecting to drop the times. We put on stickers and I was coming on a fairly good lap, maybe not the quickest that I could have done, and I was blocked. That was it. The times that I had were top five and we're P4."
"It definitely means a lot to be starting in the top five in the first Canadian race of the season. My qualifying went pretty average to be honest. Red Bull Team Forsythe gave me a good car at the start and I was able to go P1 at the start. When I went P1, I was hoping it would rain more so my time would stay, but unfortunately it kept getting drier and drier. We still had pretty good pace. We put on new tires a little bit too late. By that time it started raining, so I didn't even improve on my lap with new tires. I think it could be better, but I think starting fourth isn't so bad."
GIACOMO RICCI (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) of Conquest Racing:
"I'm really happy about my position. It's the first time for me in the top three. It's really, really good. The big congratulations go to my team. Everybody worked really hard. After Cleveland, we have found a better setup for the car. Right now, I'm much more confident with the team and everybody. A big congratulations goes also to my sponsor, because they helped me a lot to be here. I hope tomorrow I can finish in the top three. For me, it would be really great."