TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC, CANADA (August 3, 2002) -- Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr/Castrol Swift 014.a) broke up a Lynx Racing sweep of the front row, but it was no consolation to the California driver who was looking to win his first pole...
TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC, CANADA (August 3, 2002) -- Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr/Castrol Swift 014.a) broke up a Lynx Racing sweep of the front row, but it was no consolation to the California driver who was looking to win his first pole since 2000 when he won the pole in Cleveland. Gurney held the pole heading into Saturday afternoon's qualifying session, but it was current CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points leader, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) who slid by and stole top spot.
Valiante's time of 1:00.762 seconds (90.116 mph) earned the first career pole for the Burnaby, BC, Canada native as well as becoming the first Canadian driver to start from the first starting spot at Trois-Rivieres since Alex Tagliani won the pole here in 1998. Even though Gurney and Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) were quicker than Hoover Orsi's 2001 track record in this morning's practice, nobody could break the mark of 1:00.663 seconds (90.263 mph) this afternoon as track temperatures soared to over 100 degrees.
"I'm very happy to be able to score my first pole at a Canadian race, and particularly at Trois-Rivieres, which has played such a huge role in the history of Atlantic," said Valiante who won an additional bonus point with the pole. "The Lynx team gave me a very good car, and I could have easily maintained that pace, or even increased it if I had gotten a completely clear lap. There's still room for improvement in the car, and we'll decide overnight what changes we want to try in tomorrow's warm up session. Nothing too big though because the car is already very comfortable to drive and fast enough to win."
"It was disappointing," said Gurney with a smile. "I thought after this morning's practice and even using old tires that the car was really hooked up. We may have overcompensated a little on the set-up for the new tires. That turned out to be a mistake, but that's the way things go sometimes. Regardless, Michael did a great job. It looks like Lynx Racing will be strong tomorrow and so will Dorricott. We're start two and four so I anticipate a good race."
It should be a barn burner as both Valiante and Gurney will have teammate's lining up on their bumpers at the start of tomorrow's 45-lap race. Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx/Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) earned his season's best starting spot of third with a time of 1:01.035 seconds while Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a) will start fourth after posting a lap of 1:01.180 seconds (89.500 mph). Valiante and Gurney will also get to continue their street race battle that has produced some of the best racing this season.
"This is my best qualifying of the season so far, and I'm really jazzed about getting to start up front because it's really hard to pass here during the race," beamed Ryley. My car has a little more room for improvement than Michael's, mainly in the area of getting over the bumps without having it upset the handling. It's fast now, but it's hard to drive and we need to have a more forgiving car for the race."
Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift 014.a), who is making his first start since suffering injuries in a May testing accident at the Milwaukee Mile, rounded out the top-five with a time of 1:01.254 seconds (89.392 mph).
"We were really fast right out of the box," said Hand. "We had a lot for them today, but it just didn't go our way. About ten minutes in, the oil filter cracked and that was it. Our car is fast, and starting fifth is okay, but it's going to be a dogfight tomorrow. For my first race back, I told myself I would be happy with a top five, and we're on our way."
With the bonus point, Valiante extended his points lead to nine points over Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Andor Capital Management/Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a), who continues to struggle this weekend at his first visit to Trois-Rivieres. Hunter-Reay's time of 1:01.803 seconds (88.598 mph) placed him 15th for Sunday's race. Fogarty, third place in the Championship, stands one point behind Hunter-Reay.
The 30-minute session was slowed only once due to the spin and stall of Carl Russo (Performance Development & Racing Swift 014.a) in Turn 1. Russo restarted the car and continued on in the session.
The teams take to the track again bright and early on Sunday morning for an 8:00 a.m. EST warm up session. Speed Channel will carry tomorrow's 45-lap race from the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres LIVE at 1:00 p.m. EST.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's premier open-wheel development series and the top rung on CART's "ladder system", as well as having $100,000 race purses and a one million dollar points fund. It is also noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART Champ Car stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani as well as former series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.