TROIS-RIVIERES, Qc., (August 2, 2002) -- Atlantic veterans dominated the top of the timesheets during Friday afternoon's 30-minute qualifying session as experienced Trois-Rivieres drivers placed six of the top seven times. Leading the charge was...
TROIS-RIVIERES, Qc., (August 2, 2002) -- Atlantic veterans dominated the top of the timesheets during Friday afternoon's 30-minute qualifying session as experienced Trois-Rivieres drivers placed six of the top seven times. Leading the charge was Alex Gurney (Dorricott Racing/Behr/Castrol Swift 014.a) with a time of 1:01.116 seconds (89.594 mph).
Although Gurney won his first career pole during the 2000 Championship at Cleveland, the California driver is still looking for his first pole of 2002. Gurney edged current Atlantic Championship points leader, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing Swift 014.a) by 2/1000ths of a second to take the bonus Championship point bringing his total to 76 points, 25 points behind the leader, Valiante. Most important to Gurney is the guaranteed front row starting spot in Sunday's 45-lap race as the third year driver searches for his first career Atlantic win.
"This has been a long time coming," said Gurney who's best career finish of second came earlier this season at Long Beach behind Valiante. "It feels really good. I ran my fast lap free of traffic at the right time when the fuel was low and the car was warmed up. It was perfect timing and I needed it. The last red flag was a concern since there were only three minutes left when the track went green again. It became a matter of running your fast lap right away. We struggled in the last couple of races but we've managed to stay in the Championship. My crew did an outstanding job of preparing the car so I'm pleased I was able to bring home a good time on their efforts. Now we hope we can run quicker tomorrow."
The red flag Gurney referred to was the cause to some anxious moments at the 1.521-mile Trois-Rivieres circuit. Kyle Krisiloff (21st Century Technology/U.S. Grand Prix/Patrick Racing Swift 014.a) made wheel to wheel contact with the car of Rodolfo Lavin (Michael Shank Racing/ Corona/Modelo Swift 014.a) heading into the tight left hand Turn 6. Krisiloff's car flipped over on his roof and skidded into the tire wall while sliding on the roll bar above his head. Corner workers were on the scene immediately to assist the young Indianapolis driver. Once the car was righted onto its side, Krisiloff climbed out and walked away under his own power unharmed.
"As I started braking, the car behind me was far back," stated Krisiloff on the incident. "When I got deeper in the braking zone, I saw he was not going to brake fast enough and as I got to the apex, I was broadsided in the rear of the car and I flipped over. I guess that is just a racing incident, but we are pretty unhappy about it right now."
Valiante's time of 1:01.118 seconds (89.591 mph) was good enough for second while fellow Canadian driver, Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings/Miller Genuine Draft/Battlefield Equipment Rentals Swift 014.a) posted a time of 1:01.355 seconds (89.245 mph). The last time the duo raced in Canada, they grabbed the top two spots at the Molson Indy Toronto.
"I'm a little disappointed to have lost the provisional pole by 2/1000ths of second on the last lap, but at least it shows we've got a good car and are firmly in the hunt," said Valiante who has won streets races this season in Long Beach and Toronto. "It was actually my fault because I had a flyer going on the last lap and I charged the entry to the arch turn a little too hard, had to brake really hard and that cost me some exit speed. Still, we're in good shape and there's at least half of a second left in the car, so if it doesn't rain overnight, the track should be faster tomorrow."
"The car is working fairly good," said Gormley, Ontario's Macri. "We were able to use that session to come in and make changes to the car. I wasn't really happy with it early on, but we did a good job of making the changes and I was happy at the end. After the red flag, I was able to get a good clear lap and popped a quick one in there. We're only sitting 2/10ths behind and I think there is a lot left in the car so we have a good chance for the pole tomorrow."
Jon Fogarty (Dorrciott Racing/Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014.a), who is nine points behind Valiante in the Championship, was the only driver in the top seven that had never raced this circuit before. Fogarty's time of 1:01.505 seconds (89.027 mph) was good enough for fourth fastest in the session and was followed by Valiante's teammate, Grant Ryley (Lynx Racing/Northwest Speedwerx/Cupertino Electric Swift 014.a) with a time of 1:01.584 seconds (88.913 mph). Ryan Hunter-Reay (Hylton Motorsports/Andor Capital Mangement/Medlock Ames Winery Swift 014.a), who trails Valiante by eight points, was eight quickest with a time of 1:01.930 seconds (88.416 mph).
The teams are back on track tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. EST for their final practice session, followed by the second qualifying session of the weekend scheduled to begin at 12:30 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.