ANDREAS WIRTH BEATS THE RAIN IN PORTLAND TO CLAIM FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC POLE POSITION PORTLAND, Oregon (June 17, 2005) -- The unpredictable summer weather in Portland turned Friday's Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama...
ANDREAS WIRTH BEATS THE RAIN IN PORTLAND TO CLAIM FIRST TOYOTA ATLANTIC POLE POSITION
PORTLAND, Oregon (June 17, 2005) -- The unpredictable summer weather in Portland turned Friday's Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama qualifying session into a guessing game. German rookie Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) had the perfect combination of speed and foresight as he beat the raindrops on the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway road circuit to secure his first Atlantic pole position.
With rain threatening at the beginning of the 30-minute qualifying session for the first of two Toyota Atlantic races this weekend, Wirth and the other 19 series competitors furiously attacked the track to take advantage of the dry conditions at PIR. Wirth posted a fast lap of 1:08.546 (103.148 mph) on his 10th turn on the 12-turn course, which turned out to be the final time around in the dry for the 20-year-old racer. After Wirth's quick time, the rain started coming down a bit harder on course and the remainder of the qualifying session was run in wet conditions with much slower lap times.
By earning the pole, Wirth claims a championship point and will start from the point in Saturday's race. He also became the 100th driver in the 32-year history of the Toyota Atlantic Championship to win a pole and he also produced the first pole for his Brooks Associates Racing team.
Series point leader Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) also ran well in the dry conditions, posting a quick lap of 1:08.639 (103.008 mph), but he wound up with the second-fastest time in qualifying as he was caught preparing to launch a quick lap assault on Wirth when the rain began to intensify. Zwolsman will still carry a six-point advantage in the series title chase into tomorrow's Round 3 start.
Another first-year driver, Kyle Kelley (#24 UP Racing.com/T. Christy), enjoyed his best qualifying result of his young Atlantic career. The California native who will celebrate his 20th birthday next week, finished third in the qualifying rundown after turning a lap of 1:09.074 (102.360 mph) in the dry conditions. Kelley, who made the most of his experience racing at PIR in other series prior to joining Atlantics, continued to see his qualifying performances improve. He was eighth in Round 1 and qualified sixth in Round 2 before today's impressive performance.
After leading the morning practice, Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK ind./TMI/Redline Oil) wound up fourth overall in qualifying with a time of 1:09.140 (102.262 mph). The Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis pilot has now qualified inside the top six in all three Atlantic events this season.
Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) of Polestar Racing Group continued his streak of qualifying in the top five this season and he will start from the fifth position tomorrow after he was clocked at 1:09.226 (102.135 mph). David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/Aviacsa/RocaAcero/Multigama/Martiga) of Mexico was sixth in the order with a time of 1:09.234 (102.123 mph) for the US RaceTronics team.
British racer Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) will line up seventh on Saturday after she recorded a time of 1:10.710 (99.992 mph), while Chris Dyson (#16 Thetford/Norcold) had a fast lap of 110.887 (99.742 mph) in eighth overall. In his 2005 series debut, Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing) was ninth in qualifying with a time of 1:11.008 (99.572 mph) and Lee Atkins of Woodinville, Washington was the top C2 class qualifier as he wound up 10th overall with a mark of 1:11.284 (99.186 mph).
Saturday's Race #1 at PIR will take the green flag at 12:45 p.m. PT. Qualifying for the Sunday's second race of the weekend will be held 8:30-9 a.m. PT on Saturday morning. Sunday's Round 4 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama -- the BOSPoker.com Grand Prix of Portland -- will begin at 10 a.m. Both races can be seen next Saturday, June 25 on SPEED Channel, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
* Wirth earned the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's round of qualifying. He also earned a championship point for winning the pole and he remains sixth in the standings, now with 27 points on the year.
* With a new course design of 1.964 miles in effect this season at Portland International Raceway (previously the course was measured at 1.969-miles), Wirth's pole-winning lap of 1:08.546 (103.148 mph) serves as a new Toyota Atlantic track record at the circuit.
Quotes from the top three qualifiers from today's session follow:
ANDREAS WIRTH (Wurges Windows & Doors -- Brooks Associates Racing): "I had a really good car from the beginning. I was in front from the beginning of the session. I had the chance to have fast guys in front of me and to be able to run one fast lap after another. I worked a lot with my driver coach (Derek Higgins) today and he gave me some good ideas during the session and it is good; it definitely helps. Starting from the pole, my goal is to win tomorrow. I will focus on making the first turn and then we'll see."
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (Condor Motorsports): "I kind of messed up because in the last lap that was actually dry, I slowed down to make myself a gap to run a next fast lap but the rain came and I did not get a chance to go another quick lap. I decided to put on the rain tires and practice. I have never run in the wet before with this car but I usually am pretty comfortable in wet conditions."
KYLE KELLEY (UPracing.com/T. Christy -- McAtee Motorsports): "My dad (Bob Kelley) set the car extremely well. We got the set up right the first time and it helps that I have been on this track before. I think that's why we got the right set up so quickly. As a new team in the series we are working very hard. With our limited resources I think we are doing pretty well. We'll see what we can do for the race."