Fontana: Saturday qualifying report

Diaz Takes First Rolex Series Pole in Qualifying for Ferrari Maserati 400 FONTANA, Calif. (April 2, 2005) -- Mexico's Luis Diaz will have a birds-eye view of the starter's stand when the green flag drops on his 14th career Grand American Rolex...

Diaz Takes First Rolex Series Pole in Qualifying for Ferrari Maserati 400

FONTANA, Calif. (April 2, 2005) -- Mexico's Luis Diaz will have a birds-eye view of the starter's stand when the green flag drops on his 14th career Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race, as he placed the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley on the pole position for Sunday's Ferrari Maserati 400 at California Speedway (SPEED Channel, Live, 4 p.m. ET).

It was the first career pole for Diaz in Rolex Series competition, but was the Rolex Series record 13th pole in 15 starts for the No. 01 machine. It is the second-consecutive pole for the No. 01 team at California Speedway, and the car was driven to the Daytona Prototype championship-clinching victory by Scott Pruett--Diaz's current co-driver--and Max Papis last October. Diaz claimed the pole on his final timed lap of the session.

"I couldn't get a good lap the first two laps, but then I started focusing myself," Diaz said. "The car was very good. The team at Chip Ganassi did a great job setting up the car. It's good to have this kind of position because behind me I have a lot of pressure with all these poles from great drivers like Max Papis and Scott Pruett, it was very important for me to get this pole after I couldn't do it at Homestead. I think this is a good boost for me for the rest of the season. I'm just going to try to bring the car complete to the first stop. I think the first corner is going to be very tight on the first lap, so I hope just to bring the car in one piece to Scott and I think the car is going to be good for the rest of the race."

For the second-consecutive Rolex Series race, the No. 77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Doran Racing Lexus Doran qualified second, this time in the hands of Italian Fabrizio Gollin. While teammate Matteo Bobbi did the honors in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Miami last month, Gollin equaled the performance with a best lap of 1:33.386 (108.710 mph). Due to an engine change, however, Bobbi and the No. 77 team were unable to capitalize on the qualifying performance and were forced to start from the rear of the Daytona Prototype grid. Barring a similar setback, the outside of the front row would represent the best starting position for the first-year drivers.

"It's very important to have a lot of experience on the USA tracks because for me it's a new series," Gollin said. "It's a new type of track and it is very strange to stay on the banking and a lot of the oval. It's a new sensation but it's a very good sensation. For me and Matteo, the biggest problem was to understand the car. It's very important to learn with a good setup, but we learn a lot of things every race and we need a lot of experience. I know we are fast, but we want to work well with (team owner) Kevin (Doran). Kevin is a very great man, he has a lot of experience and he learns a lot from us. We want to do a very good race because at Homestead we made a mistake. This championship is a very great championship."

Starting third will be German Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley on the strength of a best lap at 1:33.556 (108.513 mph). Co-driver Christian Fittipaldi was quickest in Friday's practice session, and Bergmeister's qualifying performance continues a strong weekend showing for the Krohn/TRG team.

Mike Borkowski took his second-straight top-four starting spot in the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley for Michael Shank Racing. Borkowski clocked a best lap at 1:33.740 (108.300 mph) to claim the outside of the second row for the Ferrari Maserati 400. He started third in the Grand Prix of Miami last month. Frenchman Stephan Gregoire rounded out the top five on the starting grid with a lap at 1:33.798 (108.233 mph) in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford.

AUBERLEN RETURNS BMW TO FRONT OF GT GRID WITH CLASS POLE

After a difficult start to the 2005 Rolex Series season, defending GT champion returned to the head of the class field at California Speedway by putting the No. 21 BMW Financial Services BMW M3 on the GT pole with a lap at 1:40.893 (100.621 mph). It was Auberlen's first class pole since the race at Barber Motorsports Park last October.

"Twice last year, I thought I had a pole but didn't get it because I went out front and allowed my competitors draft me," Auberlen said. "Today, I picked someone to follow and he pulled me all the way down the front straight. What a difference. We had a bit of a fight, but I got ahead of him coming out of Turn 2 and pulled away in the infield. These tires are the best on the first lap and I had a great first lap. Their performance does fall off during the race so we will continue to work on the balance of our M3 to ensure consistency tomorrow."

Auberlen will be joined on the GT front row by his BMW Team PTG teammate, Tom Milner in the No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3, who posted a best lap at 1:41.589 (99.932 mph). Milner started from the GT pole and won the race in the 2004 Rolex Series finale at California Speedway and is in good position for a repeat victory.

After running at or near the top of the class time charts throughout the weekend, Patrick Long wound up third on the starting grid with a best lap of 1:41.611 (99.910 mph) in the No. 26 HOME 123 Mortgage Porsche GT3 Cup for AASCO Motorsports. David Murry placed the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup fourth on the GT grid at 1:42.613 (98.935 mph), followed by Chris Gleason in the No. 22 BMW Financial Services M3 at 1:42.774 (98.780 mph).

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Stephan Gregoire , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Pruett , David Murry , Luis Diaz , Jörg Bergmeister , Matteo Bobbi , Patrick Long , Chris Gleason , Mike Borkowski , Chip Ganassi , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing