Hand scores first championship point of 2003; takes provisional pole for Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. MONTERREY, Mexico (March 21, 2003) - After a disappointing season in 2002 in which he missed six races due to injury, DSTP Motorsports...
Hand scores first championship point of 2003; takes provisional pole for Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 21, 2003) - After a disappointing season in 2002 in which he missed six races due to injury, DSTP Motorsports driver Joey Hand (#27 BG Products/DSTP Motorsports Toyota/Swift) took the first step in putting those painful thoughts behind him as he placed his car on the provisional pole for Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix (SPEED, 11:30 a.m. ET).
As time expired on the initial qualifying session, Hand clocked a best lap of 1:26.519 (87.546 mph) to knock rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift) off the top spot on the speed charts. Hand's time eclipsed the previous track record of 1:27.089 (86.973 mph) established by Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex Toyota/Swift) in last year's inaugural Toyota Atlantic event at Monterrey'sFundidora Park. In the process, Hand earned his first championship point of the season, and guaranteed himself a front row starting spot for the race.
Allmendinger, the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series champion, held the top spot for most of the final 15 minutes of the session before Hand's last-minute flyer. Nevertheless, Allmendinger acquitted himself well in his first day of official CART Toyota Atlantic Championship competition, and appears to be well-positioned for a solid starting position.
Qualifying third today was Californian Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing Toyota/Swift), who turned in a best lap of 1:27.003 (87.059 mph). Figge posted his best Toyota Atlantic qualifying effort at Chicago Motor Speedway last season when he put his car on the outside of the front row, but he is poised to equal of eclipse that performance with a solid showing tomorrow.
Posting the fourth quickest time in the opening qualifying session was Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper Toyota/Swift) at 1:27.401. Dalziel goes into the final round of qualifying tomorrow looking to record his second consecutive pole position, as he also started from the pole in the season-ending Grand Prix of Denver in 2002. He recorded his career best Toyota Atlantic finish in last year's Monterrey season-opener with a second place run, and equaled that performance to close out the '02 season in Denver.
Rounding out the top five is Diaz, who posted a best lap of 1:27.655 (86.411 mph) driving for 2002 Toyota Atlantic champions Dorricott Racing. Diaz finished fifth after starting from the pole position one year ago, and goes into tomorrow's qualifying session looking to duplicate last year's performance in qualifying.
Qualifying sixth was Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Toyota/Swift) in his first outing with Polestar Atlantic, LLC, at 1:27.675 (86.392 mph), followed by Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate, Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift) at 1:27.966 (86.106 mph). Last season's championship runner-up, Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing Toyota/Swift) had a somewhat disappointing opening day, as he was able to muster just the eighth quickest time of 1:28.034 (86.039 mph), and the Canadian was followed by Team Rahal's Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company Toyota/Swift) at 1:28.210 (85.868 mph). Rookie Romain Dumas (#88 Jorge Arana/Aviasca/Millenio Toyota/Swift) rounded out the top 10 at 1:28.308 (85.773 mph).
Saturday's schedule in Monterrey calls for a 30-minute practice session beginning at 8:20 a.m. locally, and will be followed by a 40-minute final qualifying session beginning at 12:50 p.m. CT. The green flag on the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix and the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season is scheduled to wave at 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday morning.
Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:
* JOEY HAND (#27 BG Products/DSTP Motorsports Toyota/Swift): "For us, qualifying was what we expected, but some people may have underestimated us after the way last year ended. This isn't the overall pole position, but it is a point and we are winning the championship. If you look around the paddock, this is a huge, huge boost for my guys. It's not that they were down, but this just helps a lot. I'm very happy, not only for myself, but also for Dede Rogers, my team owner, and the whole DSTP Motorsports team."
* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#3 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift): "The track is still very slippery, and I'm still learning a lot in this car. It's our first ever qualifying, and to be up there like this is really great. Mostly, I learned how the car reacts for a whole session. You know you have to throw that one big lap down. This is the start of a long process."
* ALEX FIGGE (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing Toyota/Swift): "All in all I'm really pleased with qualifying," said Figge. "We're a new team and things have been hectic, but the team has given me a well prepared car. I was able to post a good time early, but late in the session I found it difficult to turn a quick lap. Obviously I think the track will be quicker tomorrow and I look forward to fighting for the pole."