Monterrey: Saturday qualifying notes

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN CLAIMS FIRST CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION IN MONTERREY, MEXICO MONTERREY, MEXICO (May 21, 2005) -- Winning his first career Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama pole position was the easy part for series rookie...

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN CLAIMS FIRST CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION IN MONTERREY, MEXICO

MONTERREY, MEXICO (May 21, 2005) -- Winning his first career Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama pole position was the easy part for series rookie Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) compared to the wait he had endured in the hour following qualifying in Monterrey, Mexico.

Zwolsman, the 25-year-old driver from the Netherlands, continued to improve his speed and lap times on the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park road course throughout the day and seized the pole for Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Roshfrans Atlantic race with a top lap of 1:26.831 (87.232 mph). After leading the morning practice session Zwolsman came out of the gates quickly, putting up a fast time early. He continued to drop his lap times as the track conditions improved and he posted his pole-winning time on his 14th and final lap.

The pole is certainly significant to the veteran European racer, and not just because it is the first of his Atlantic career. In the season-opening race at Long Beach in April, Zwolsman appeared to have claimed the pole after leading the final qualifying session. His car, which hadn't been run in over two years, failed technical inspection and he was forced to start from the back of the field after the unintentional infraction. He roared back with an electric performance on race day coming from 19th on starting grid to finish third.

Because of his Long Beach experience however, Zwolsman was sitting on pins and needles until he was sure his car cleared today's post-qualifying inspection; and only then could he start to focus on tomorrow's race -- Round 2 of the 2005 Atlantic championship (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, May 28 at 2 p.m. ET).

After pacing the opening-round of qualifying on Friday, Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) locked up a front row starting spot despite posting a slower top time on Saturday. Kasemets' Friday fast lap of 1:27.967 (86.105 mph) will enable him to line up second at the start tomorrow.

For the second consecutive race, Brooks Associates Racing pilot Andreas Wirth (#8 KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows and Doors) will start among the top three as his quick time of 1:27.578 (86.487 mph) was actually the second-fastest time in qualifying behind Zwolsman, but he will take the green flag in third position on Sunday with Kasemets locked into the front row.

With a fast lap of 1:27.580 (86.485 mph), Canadian rookie Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) will start fourth Sunday. The Polestar Racing Group driver earned his first Atlantic pole in Long Beach and after finishing second in the season opener, he remains second in the championship standings heading into Sunday's race.

Mexican drivers David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Todito Card/Roca Acero/Madisa/Koviva) and Memo Rojas (#10 Telmex) will occupy spots five and six respectively, on the starting grid after the on-track rivals both turned in solid qualifying efforts. Martinez, who had the second-fastest time in Friday qualifying, suffered dehydration in the hot and muggy conditions in his hometown of Monterrey on Saturday. He still managed to turn a quick lap of 1:27.637 (86.429 mph) for US RaceTronics to round out the top five qualifiers.

Rojas, seeing his first Atlantic action this weekend, was among the frontrunners for most of today's qualifying before a tire pressure issue cost him late in the session. He still ran strong for the Brooks team and he finished sixth in the rundown with a time of 1:28.102 (85.973 mph).

Series point leader Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing), who had been running among the top three drivers all weekend, saw her final round of qualifying come to a premature end when she crashed in to a tire barrier in Turn 11 just six minutes into the session, damaging her right front suspension. Legge, who carries a slim one-point advantage (32-31) in the title chase over her teammate Bessette into Sunday's event, will start eighth based on her fast time from Friday at 1:28.864 (85.236 mph).

Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools) emerged as the top qualifier in the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup, finishing 10th in the overall rundown with a time of 1:30.206 (83.968 mph).

The Atlantic machines return to the track for a 15-minute warm-up session at 8:45 a.m. local (CT) time Sunday with the 32-lap (67.328 mph) Atlantic race scheduled to take the green flag at 12:15 p.m. Follow all of the action through the live timing and scoring link on the official series website -- www.toyotaatlantic.com.

ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES

* Zwolsman earned the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's round of final qualifying. He also earned a championship point for winning the pole and he remains third in the standings, now with 27 points on the year.

* In all three previous Atlantic events held at Fundidora Park (2002-2004) incidents marred the opening lap, resulting in either a full-course caution or one of the top competitors retiring due to contact with another car. Fans, teams and officials are all hoping for a clean start to the race on Sunday.

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

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "As the track got better, we got better. It was my first time here, so we've made some small changes every session, which improved the car that was already good to start with. Hopefully my car will pass the technical inspection this time (laughing). The guys did a great job."

TONIS KASEMETS (Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil - Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis: "We made small changes that should have made the car work better. The car handles very good but there is no lap time. We need to see if we can find something on the car and, if we can't find something, we will just go with what we have. Anything can happen during the race and I will race as hard as I can with the car I have."

ANDREAS WIRTH (KBE/Profine/Wurges Windows & Doors - Brooks Associates Racing): "The car was great for today's qualifying. We tried something a little bit different than yesterday and it work really well so I am happy. I had never been on this track before and I learned more everyday. For tomorrow's race, my first goal is to race the first lap without incident and then we will see how it goes."

DAVID MARTINEZ (Roshfrans/Todito Card/Roca Acero/Madisa/Koviva - US Race Tronics): "The track was very hot today and don't think I was at 100% of my capacities. Toward the end, I had some communication problems and I thought I was on pole. On my last lap I caught some traffic so that was it for me. When I got out of the car I realized I was way back. We will keep working, and hopefully tomorrow will be better."

MEMO ROJAS (Telmex - Brooks Associates Racing): "I'm happy because we improved the car a lot (from Friday). We were quicker than at the beginning of the session and I thought we had a chance at the pole but we made a mistake with the tire pressure and that kind of screwed up the last three laps. I tried to push it in those last three laps but there was no way I could go any quicker. It's a result really of a lack of experience and lack of communication with the team, but we still have a lot we can improve on for tomorrow's race."

-atlantic-

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Tom Nastasi , Memo Rojas , Katherine Legge , David Martinez , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Dan Cobb