Portland: Friday qualifying notes

RAIN-SOAKED OPENING ROUND OF ATLANTIC PORTLAND QUALIFYING TOPPED BY SIMON PAGENAUD PORTLAND, Oregon (June 16, 2006) -- Friday's have been special for Simon Pagenaud ( ...

RAIN-SOAKED OPENING ROUND OF ATLANTIC PORTLAND QUALIFYING TOPPED BY SIMON PAGENAUD

PORTLAND, Oregon (June 16, 2006) -- Friday's have been special for Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) this season in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda and even the rain in Portland couldn't dampen the efforts of the fast French rookie on Friday afternoon.

Pagenaud, the 22-year-old Team Australia racer, recovered from a slow start in the morning practice session at Portland International Raceway and beat the elements to lead the first round of qualifying for Sunday's Trinity Carpet 100k (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 24). Pagenaud posted a quick lap of 1:05.700 (107.616 mph) and established a new track record on just his third lap in Friday's 30-minute qualifying session at the fast 1.964-mile PIR road course.

About halfway into qualifying the skies opened and began to douse the circuit. All 27 drivers in this weekend's Atlantic field came into pit lane and waited for the rains to pass. Mother Nature never did cooperate and although just a couple of brave souls -- Newman Wachs Racing's Daniel Gaunt (#35 Newman Wachs Racing) and Justin Sofio (#26 Mathiasen Motorsports/RLM Investments) of Mathiasen Motorsports -- braved the elements, the rest of the series competitors relied on the times posted in dry conditions for their first-round qualifying results.

By topping Friday's qualifying, Pagenaud earned a championship point and now trails series leader Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) by just four markers (84-80) entering Saturday's final round of qualifying. It also marked the third time in the first four races of the season in which Pagenaud led the first round of qualifying as the native of Montmorillon, France bounced back from a seventh-place run in morning practice to lock up a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 40-lap race at PIR.

In his very first Atlantic qualifying experience Carlos Mastretta (#8 Tecnoidea/Radiante Digital/Signotech) took advantage of the weather to claim the second position in the running order. Mastretta, the former Mexican Formula Renault competitor who joined Brooks Associates Racing for the remainder of the season just a couple of weeks ago, recorded a quick lap of 1:05.791 (107.468 mph) to finish just behind Pagenaud's quick time in the wet session.

Coming off his first series victory in Monterrey, Mexico, where he became the youngest winner in the 33-year history of Atlantic competition, 17-year-old Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) seized the third-fastest time in qualifying of 1:05.852 (107.368 mph). Rahal also won his first series pole in Monterrey and will look to make it two in a row in Saturday's final qualifying session.

Newman Wachs Racing rookie Joe D'Agostino (#34 Newman/Wachs Racing) ended a productive first day on track with a solid fourth-place qualifying effort. The native of Plantation, Florida took a turn at the top of the series' morning practice chart at PIR and earned an impressive mark of 1:05.860 (107.355 mph) in qualifying.

After pacing all drivers in the 45-minute practice session on Friday morning, Sierra Sierra Enterprises rookie Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) carded a time of 1:05.884 (107.316 mph) to finish fifth in the order on Friday afternoon. Leonardo Maia (#7 INDECK) of Forsythe Championship Racing, who won from the pole at Portland in the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series race, also had a strong day. He was second on the morning scoring charts and the 25-year-old rookie claimed sixth in qualifying at 1:05.972 (107.173 mph).

Polestar Racing Group young gun Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing) earned a time of 1:05.976 (107.166 mph) in seventh position, while eighth place in qualifying belonged to Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) with a top lap of 1:06.080 (106.998 mph). British racer Tim Bridgman (#2 Epson) turned in one of his top qualifying results of the season with a ninth-place effort. He checked in with a fast lap of 1:06.165 (106.860 mph). Wirth, the series leader who won the first two events of '06 for the Forsythe team, completed the top-10 qualifiers from Friday with a mark of 1:06.246 (106.729 mph).

Sunny weather is in the forecast for the remainder of the weekend in Portland. The Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama series cars will hit the track for the first time Saturday at 9:20 a.m. PT. The final round of Atlantic qualifying will take the green flag Saturday at 1 p.m. local time. Follow all of this weekend's action from Portland through the Live Timing link and see all of the 2006 series races on demand by visiting www.champcaratlantic.com.

ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES

Pagenaud's qualifying mark of 1:05.700 (107.616 mph) shattered the previous Atlantic one lap record at PIR of 1:07.977 (104.012 mph), established by Tonis Kasemets during the second race of the 2005 doubleheader race weekend.

The top 26 drivers in Friday's first round of qualifying all surpassed the Kasemets' Portland track record time.

The top 21 drivers in Friday's field were separated by less than a second.

Quotes from the top three drivers follow:

Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia: "This track is really quick and I love that. My car is set up for this kind of track, so I tried to do a good job. On Wednesday, we did a good job finding a good balance on the car. It rains a lot in Europe, especially in France, so I'm used to driving in the rain. It's necessary to have a good car in the rain and I think we do. I think we can win in rain. We are always at the top of the grid. I will try to win, but I won't go in to the fence just to get the win. My only goal is to win this championship because I want to be in Champ Car next year. I have to be smart, that's what I'll try to do tomorrow and Sunday."

Carlos Mastretta (#8 Tecnoidea/Radiante Digital/Signotech) of Brooks Associates Racing: "I wasn't concentrating too much on position. I was just trying to keep learning. The team is doing a great job and I'm learning very solidly. I was happy with my performance. It was lucky for us when the rain came, because we had posted our quickest lap. I think our performance was good and will be even better tomorrow. I've watched the track on TV since I was a child and it's faster than it looks on TV. It's a nice track to drive. When I got the offer to race with Brooks, it was a no-brainer because this could be a learning year. And we can try to put things together to have a strong package for next year. We're trying our best."

Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing: "We looked at the weather before the session and swore that it was never going to rain. This morning was a bit of a mix up. We were quick in the rain by quite a bit. As it started to dry out, it becomes a waiting game. (Raphael) Matos got a few clear laps this morning and I didn't and others didn't. In this session, my second flying lap was my quickest. The car felt good, but I was being a little cautious. I'm sure there was time left in the car. I'm sure it's the same for everybody. Immediately after the red we went out and they warned me on the radio to watch out for rain in turn four. I could tell it just wasn't there and figured no one was going to go quicker at that point, so I just cruised around and kept new tires. Not having a lot of time today, it's hard to tell exactly where you stand. We hope for a dry day tomorrow, but we'll wait and see."

-cc

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Graham Rahal , Leonardo Maia , Jonathan Bomarito , Tonis Kasemets , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Simon Pagenaud , Alan Sciuto , Joe D'Agostino , Daniel Gaunt , Carlos Mastretta
Teams Conquest Racing