Monterrey: Friday qualifying notes

KASEMETS PACES FIRST ROUND OF ATLANTIC QUALIFYING IN MONTERREY, MEXICO MONTERREY, MEXICO (May 20, 2005) -- It may be his first time racing in Monterrey, Mexico, but Tonis Kasemets ( ...


MONTERREY, MEXICO (May 20, 2005) -- It may be his first time racing in Monterrey, Mexico, but Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) certainly didn't look like a newcomer to the challenging 2.104-mile Fundidora Park road circuit as he claimed the provisional pole for Sunday's Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama event at the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans.

The Estonian-born Kasemets led the morning practice session on the challenging and slippery 12-turn circuit and he followed it up by posting a quick lap of 1:27.967 (86.105 mph) on his 15th and final lap to earn a championship point and lock up a front row starting spot for Sunday's 32-lap event -- Round 2 of the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, May 28 at 2 p.m. ET).

The performance had to be particularly satisfying for Kasemets, the only driver in the 13-car Atlantic field this weekend that is not classified as a series rookie with seven starts under his belt. The Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis racer ran well in the season-opening race weekend in Long Beach but experienced mechanical problems early on in the race and was forced to retire after just 15 laps.

To the delight of the Mexican crowd in attendance on the hot and sunny afternoon in Monterrey, hometown racer David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Todito Card/Roca Acero/Madisa/Koviva) carded the second-fastest lap of the day with a time of 1:28.498 (85.588 mph). Martinez, who lives in Monterrey and raced on the Fundidora Park course in an Atlantic car in 2002, got up to speed quickly on Friday despite limited testing time with his US RaceTronics team over the last two weeks. He was also second on the scoring charts in the morning practice, but an oversight in qualifying nearly cost the team a strong opening-day result.

Martinez began the 30-minute afternoon qualifying session on practice tires, which is a violation of series rules. He ran the first six laps on the practice rubber before switching to qualifying tires. Series officials disallowed all times established on the practice tires but Martinez' impressive times for the remainder of qualifying were permitted. In order guard against any potential competitive advantage that may have been gained by the team, officials have mandated that US RaceTronics must use the qualifying tires during the first six laps of Saturday's practice session ensuring that the wear on the tires is equal for all series competitors.

Coming off a victory in Long Beach in her first Atlantic start, series point leader Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) had a strong showing in her first experience racing in Monterrey. The 24-year-old native of the UK earned the third-fastest qualifying time of 1:28.864 (85.236 mph).

Finishing with the fourth-fastest lap of the afternoon was Legge's Polestar Racing Group teammate Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) who was clocked at 1:29.043 (85.065 mph). Condor Motorsports rookie driver Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) rounded out the top five qualifiers on the day after posting a lap of 1:29.074 (85.035 mph).

With a time of 1:29.244 (84.873 mph) in his first Atlantic action of 2005, Adam Pecorari (#2 Konica Minolta/Penn Capital) finished the day sixth on the scoring charts for Jensen Motorsport while Germany's Andreas Wirth (#8 KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows and Doors) was seventh in qualifying at 1:29.527 (84.605 mph).

Mexican Memo Rojas (#10 Telmex), making his Toyota Atlantic debut this weekend, recorded a top lap of 1:29.565 (84.569 mph). The Mexico City native joined the Brooks Associates Racing team last week and turned in a solid effort with no testing time before hitting the track today.

Kyle Kelley (#24 UP's Antiques/Toyota of Huntington Beach/T. Christy) of McAtee Motorsports owned a best lap of 1:30.766 (83.441 mph) while Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools) turned in the top C2 class qualifying time of the day, and 10th overall, at 1:32.134 (82.211 mph).

Owner driver Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) was 11th on the rundown with a lap of 1:33.085 (81.371 mph) while fellow C2 competitors Mark Ishikakawa (#71 Bay TSP) posted a best lap of 1:37.854 (77.405 mph). Ben Johnston (#96 Win Fuel/TrimSpa/Media Brokers International) completed the Atlantic qualifiers with a time of 1:38.554 (76.855 mph).

The 240 HP Toyota Atlantic machines return to the track Saturday morning for a 30-minute practice session beginning at 8:05 a.m. local (CT) time. The final round of qualifying will take place at 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, setting the final grid for Sunday's 12:15 p.m. race.


* The Toyota Atlantic Championship lost a valued member of the series this week with the untimely passing of Nancy McAtee, the wife of series team owner Dale McAtee. The funeral for Mrs. McAtee was held back in the United States on Friday and the McAtee Motorsports team plans to run a decal on its car this weekend in her honor. Mrs. McAtee is survived by her husband as well as her son, Atlantic racer Brian McAtee, and daughter Kelly McAtee.

* This marks the fourth Toyota Atlantic race in Monterrey, Mexico. The series made its debut at the Fundidora Park track in 2002.

Quotes from the top three qualifiers from today's session, and Mexican driver Memo Rojas, follow:

TONIS KASEMETS (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil): "We had a good car, we had good preparation. The car is as good as it was in Long Beach. We did not have very good luck in Long Beach so we are just trying to prepare and hopefully not make any mistakes. I don't feel any pressure (for this race). This is what I love to do, and I am just looking forward. We have to see where we can improve (the car) overnight and try not to overdo it."

DAVID MARTINEZ (#7 Roshfrans/Todito Card/Roca Acero/Madisa/Koviva): "I think we still have a ways to go. It has been a very stressful week and I wanted the pole badly but I was pushing too hard in the last lap, which is why I did not better my P2 lap. The team did a very good job and we will work on the car tonight."

KATHERINE LEGGE (#12 PKV Racing): "It was very challenging. The track is very technical and I like it. We have been working on getting as much grip as possible because the track is very slippery and the car developed oversteer. I know, it's the same for everybody, but we'll keep working to improve our performance under these conditions."

MEMO ROJAS (#10 Telmex): "It was a good day. It was not as easy as I thought it would be to adapt to this kind of car. I have never run a car with ground effects before. So without any testing it was not easy. I am happy with the progress we have made today, but we have a lot of room for improvement,"


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Tom Nastasi , Memo Rojas , Katherine Legge , Kyle Kelley , Adam Pecorari , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Andreas Wirth , Dan Cobb , Brian McAtee