Toronto: Saturday qualifying notes

ZWOLSMAN STAYS HOT IN TORONTO, WINNING THIRD CAREER ATLANTIC POLE POSITION TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 9, 2005) -- Even though he wasn't happy with his car's set up, rookie Charles Zwolsman ( ...


TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 9, 2005) -- Even though he wasn't happy with his car's set up, rookie Charles Zwolsman (#11 Condor Motorsports) was able to continue his recent hot streak in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, winning his third career series pole in only his seventh race as he posted the fastest qualifying lap Saturday at the Molson Indy Toronto.

Winner of the last two races on the Atlantic calendar, Zwolsman made it two straight series poles as well when he carded the fastest time of the weekend at 1:07.335 (93.829 mph) on his second-to-last lap of qualifying. The first-year series sensation had already locked up a front-row starting spot after leading the first round of qualifying on Friday. He also sat atop the scoring charts with the fastest lap of today's session when he went out and topped his own time with the qualifying clock winding down.

Despite his success this weekend, Zwolsman still isn't happy with his car's performance. He remarked after winning the pole that he and the Condor Motorsports team are still trying to find the right balance in the car and they'll continue to try and improve the set up for Sunday's race. By claiming the championship point for winning the pole, Zwolsman extends his lead in the Atlantic title chase to nine points, 171-162, over his closest pursuer -- second-year driver Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil).

When Zwolsman starts from the point in Sunday's Round 7 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, July 16 at 2 p.m. ET), he'll have to contend with two drivers right behind him that have experience racing up front at the tight, 1.755-mile Toronto street circuit.

David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US RaceTronics) produced his top qualifying result of his young Atlantic career as he posted the second-fastest time today. The talented Mexican racer was clocked at 1:07.415 (93.718 mph) for the first-year US RaceTronics team. In 2003, Martinez won the provisional pole for the Barber Dodge Pro Series race at Toronto. He wound up leading three times in that event and eventually finished third. He'll be looking to improve on that result tomorrow.

Canadian Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) will start third on Sunday. He recorded a time of 1:07.607 (93.452 mph) in Friday's qualifying session. He was unable to top that time Saturday but it held up as third-fastest time of the weekend. The St. Bruno, Quebec native has now qualified among the top five in all seven events this season. He finished fourth last season at Toronto in the North American Formula Renault race and he also took the checkered flag right behind Martinez in the '03 Barber Dodge race in fourth place. Bessette feels his car has a good balance for the race and he hopes to call on his experience at the venue to try and extend the string of Canadian drivers finishing on the podium in Toronto Atlantic races to 15 consecutive seasons.

Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) continued his solid weekend in hi first Toronto racing experience. The German rookie has now qualified among the top five in all events this season as he posted the fourth-fastest lap in qualifying at 1:07.728 (93.285 mph).

After finishing third in provisional qualifying, Kasemets wound up fifth in the final order as he had a fast lap of 1:07.920 (93.021 mph). Unfortunately, the result is the worst qualifying effort since Round 1 in Long Beach for the Estonian racer as he continues to chase Zwolsman for the '05 Atlantic crown.

British rookie standout Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) will line up sixth on the starting grid for Polestar Racing Group after she checked in with a top time of 1:07.944 (92.988 mph) in qualifying. For the second consecutive event, Al Unser III (#10 Racing) qualified seventh. The third-generation racing Unser owned a fast lap of 1:08.813 (91.814 mph) for Brooks Associates Racing.

Connecticut's Tom Nastasi (#23 USG Sheetrock/DeWalt Tools/Ramset Tools) bounced back from an accident in provisional qualifying. He posted his best career Atlantic qualifying result of eighth when he posted a lap of 1:09.080 (91.459 mph). Canadian Eric Jensen (#2 Konica Minolta/Epson Canada) ran a best time of 1:09.088 (91.449 mph) that will enable him to start ninth on Sunday.

Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) led all five runners in the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup this weekend as he qualified 10th overall at 1:10.454 (89.676 mph). Sofio earned a point while emerging as the fastest C2 qualifier and he now leads Dan Cobb (#9 Camelot Construction) 146-144 in the tight C2 class standings.

The 240 HP Atlantic machines return to the track for a 15-minute warm-up session at 8 a.m. ET on Sunday morning before taking the green flag at 10 a.m. for the Molson Indy Toronto Atlantic race, scheduled for 35 laps or 50 minutes.


* Zwolsman claimed the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's final round of qualifying.

* The polewinner has won four out of the last five Atlantic races in Toronto. In all, the polesitter has captured the checkered flag in seven of the 14 previous Atlantic events held at the venue.

Following are the quotes from the top three qualifiers from today's qualifying session:

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports): "The car did not feel so good this morning and it was still not good for qualifying, but with the new tires we managed to run well so I am happy with that. I pushed the whole session and did my best time right at the end when the grip gets better. I did not mean to do it so late. The car is still sliding around so we are going to look at the data and see what we can do to improve the balance. (On the start) I don't really have a plan because every start is different. So I will focus on having a good start and see how it goes."

DAVID MARTINEZ (#7 Roshfrans -- US Race Tronics): "It is good to be back here. We struggled for a couple of races but we finally found some speed in the car. We tried to use the set ups from last year but, as the cars have less downforce this season, it didn't really help. But we are working hard every weekend and I think that we will be in good shape to try and win races this year. This is a competitive series with competitive drivers so it is good to be up front. (On the race) This track is physically very demanding and I know it is going to be a tough race but we have a consistent car so I hope we will be in front at the end. I've had a good experience here in Barber Dodge Pro Series in 2003 (third-place finish) so it might help me. In any case, it should be a really fun race tomorrow."

ANTOINE BESSETTE (#3 Unik Auto Design -- Polestar Racing): "The car that we had today was more consistent than yesterday. This is good for the race but for qualifying we needed more speed. Usually it helps to qualify on the Champ Car rubber but this time it did not make my car any quicker. (On his thoughts for the race) I will be in the inside tomorrow for the start so I might have the opportunity to pass in the two first corners. I think that we are still in good shape for the race. I am definitely going to do more changes on the car for tomorrow because the balance is not right. The Champ Cars are going to put more rubber on and we should get more grip."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Tom Nastasi , Katherine Legge , Eric Jensen , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Dan Cobb , Al Unser III