Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen, co-driving the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing, will start Sunday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational from the front row after qualifying second Saturday morning on...
Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen, co-driving the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing, will start Sunday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational from the front row after qualifying second Saturday morning on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca hillside road circuit outside Monterey, Calif. It will be the third front-row starting spot in five Rolex Series races this season for the SunTrust duo, who are the defending race-winners here and also are coming off their first victory of the season three weekends ago at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
In the absence of Magnussen, who is pulling double duty this weekend as co-driver of a factory Corvette in tonight's American Le Mans Series race at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City, Angelelli made a rare appearance as qualifying driver of the SunTrust Pontiac this weekend. In typical Angelelli fashion, he earned the front-row position with a bit of drama involved. His fastest of 10 laps during today's 15-minute qualifying session -- a 1 minute, 20.834-second (99.671-mph) effort -- came on the very last one. It thrust him from fourth to second on the grid and put him alongside the pole-sitting No. 99 Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney that he held off for the race win here last year. The 99 car was just five-hundredths of a second quicker at 1:20.787 (99.729 mph) -- a new track record -- in earning the team's second pole of the season and fifth consecutive front-row starting spot.
"Obviously, it's a very nice feeling (to be on the front row)," said Angelelli, whose victory with Magnussen on April 29 at VIR vaulted the SunTrust team into the series point championship lead by a 127-116 margin over the second-place No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley team and drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. "(With regard to the season-long championship), my attitude doesn't change. We want to win, and we want to win the championship. So we're going to push as usual. I'm very pleased with the front row, very happy. Our target is that we need to finish in the top three at all of the races. This championship is so competitive, it's so close, you can't (have an off weekend) or else it takes basically five or six races to recover. We want to be there. We want to be consistent. You need to make sure all the parts (of the team) are in place."
Having done all the driving here this weekend through Thursday testing, Friday practice and today's practice and qualifying sessions, Angelelli will welcome his teammate Magnussen to Monterey just in time for Sunday morning's final practice session. Angelelli will start the race, per series rules as qualifying driver, and will hand the SunTrust car over to Magnussen for the finish after the mandatory driver change.
"It will be different. It's a question mark," Angelelli said about Magnussen not being available to drive here until Sunday morning. "We don't know what we are going to do (in the race) -- when the driver change will be, how many, etc. We'll decide all of that before the race tomorrow. He's concentrating on Salt Lake City, so we'll talk tomorrow."
Last year here, Magnussen secured the fifth starting spot by virtue of his fifth-place finish in the Saturday qualifying race. He started Sunday's 88-lap race and led 18 tours of the circuit before handing the car over to Angelelli. The Italian, who co-drove with team owner Wayne Taylor to the 2005 series championship, regained the lead 21 laps from the finish and took the checkered flag 3.5 seconds ahead of runner-up Gurney in the No. 99 Pontiac. It was the SunTrust team's first and only victory of 2006.
"The whole team did a great job," Taylor said of today's qualifying result. "We were struggling the first two days, but they really worked hard. Max extracted a lot of time out of the car and it's really good. There's always a concern when you've got a driver (Magnussen) who's not on the same race track until the morning of the race. But that's what we have, so we've got to make the best of it. He and Max won here last year together. He loves the track. We're certain he's going to like the car the way Max has it set up. I think we'll be just fine."