VANCOUVER, BC (August 31, 2001) -- Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) took the first step this weekend in securing his first ever CART Toyota Atlantic Championship by shattering the track record on his way to a provisional pole on...
VANCOUVER, BC (August 31, 2001) -- Hoover Orsi (Hylton Motorsports/U.S. Print Swift) took the first step this weekend in securing his first ever CART Toyota Atlantic Championship by shattering the track record on his way to a provisional pole on Friday. Orsi's time of 1:09.759 seconds (91.911 mph) broke the 1999 record held by Alex Tagliani at 1:10.638 seconds (90.676 mph) by nearly a second.
If Orsi can hold onto the pole during tomorrow afternoon's qualifying session, it will make four in a row for the Brazilian driver, and more important, securing that valuable bonus point towards the Championship battle with David Rutledge (Lynx Racing Swift). Orsi can clinch the 2001 Championship trophy with a win this weekend in Vancouver. With a forecast of scattered showers tomorrow, Orsi looks to extend his point's lead to 48 points over Rutledge if he can win the pole.
"We have improved on the street courses since midway through the season and right now, the car is pretty good," said Brazil's Orsi. "We are still going to make some changes to the car if it stays dry and I think we can go a little bit quicker. The lap that I did was pretty good, but it's possible to go even quicker." Orsi continued on the Championship outlook. "I'm just treating this race like a normal one; just trying to do our best and not think that much about the Championship. I just want to be in front and have a good race for myself and for the team. If the championship comes this race great; If not, we still have two races to go, so I'll just try and do my best and let the results come as they may."
The broken track record continued a trend for the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Orsi's provisional Vancouver track record marks the eighth time this season in ten races that the existing track record has been broken. In addition, all track records have fallen this year on road and temporary street courses. The two races where the record stood was Nazareth, in which qualifying was rained out and Chicago, where Orsi missed the record by 3/100th's of a second.
Rutledge and his teammate, Michael Valiante (Lynx Racing/Italian Motors/Copart Auto Auctions Swift) were also both under the previous track record held by Tagliani as they stand second and third in provisional qualifying. Rutledge turned in a time of 1:10.288 seconds (91.219 mph) with Valiante at 1:10.425 seconds (91.042 mph).
"I've got a mid-corner push right now that is killing my speed in the turns because I have to get off the throttle and wait for the front wheels to grip up," said Vancouver's David Rutledge. "There is plenty left in the car, and we'll be studying the data this evening to see what direction we want to go with the setup. I definitely think we'll be in the hunt for the pole tomorrow and the win on Sunday."
The track the Atlantic drivers faced this afternoon was much different than the one they practiced on this morning. After three hours of CART FedEx Championship cars on the track, it left a few drivers scratching their heads on what to do. "It's like driving a totally different track when you run after the champ cars, and you have to set the car up for those changes," said Vancouver's Michael Valiante. "I'm pushing quite a bit through the last turn before the long back straight, so my top speed is several mph. down and that is where my time is suffering."
Rookie of the Year points leader, Joey Hand (DSTP Motorsports/BG Products Swift) was fourth in today's qualifying with a time of 1:10.735 seconds (90.643 mph). Hand holds a narrow one-point lead in the rookie battle over Jonathan Macri (P-1 Racing/NTN Bearings Swift) who stands sixth after this afternoon's session with a time of 1:11.292 seconds (89.934 mph).
"This is my first time here at Vancouver and I feel like this track really suits my style," said California's Hand. "You really have to hustle around because it's such a short track. We qualified fourth today, and of course a podium would have been nice, but we'll go for it again tomorrow. We need to work on our setup a bit, but I'm happy with the speed and momentum we have going here at Vancouver."
Martin Basso (Michael Shank Racing/3b Engine Valves Swift) placed fifth today with a time of 1:10.775 seconds (90.591 mph). Basso stands third in the Championship with 87 points, and is trying to chase down Rutledge in second who is ahead of him by 22 points. Basso is searching for his second pole of the season after winning his first earlier this season at Cleveland.
The session was cut short in its final minutes when Tony Ave (P-1 Racing/Miller Genuine Draft Swift) made contact with the turn three tire wall. Ave continued to his pit but the debris from the contact ended the session early.
The CART Toyota Atlantic teams are back on track on Saturday morning at 9:10 a.m. PST for another 30 minute practice session with final qualifying starting later that same day at 1:00 p.m. PST.