Mexico City: Qualifying report

Braun Breaks Rolex Series Track Record En Route to Pole Position for Mexico City 400k MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 2, 2007) -- One year after claiming his first career Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve...

Braun Breaks Rolex Series Track Record En Route to Pole Position for Mexico City 400k

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 2, 2007) -- One year after claiming his first career Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve podium result at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 18-year-old Colin Braun broke the Rolex Series track record and will start from the pole position in Saturday's Mexico City 400k (SPEED, Live, 4 p.m. ET).

Driving the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley, Braun--who finished second in last year's Mexico City 400k--threw down a blistering lap at 1:21.221 (110.809 mph) midway through the 20-minute qualifying session. That lap proved to be fast enough, as none of his competitors were able to find more speed over the closing minutes, and the Texas teenager came away with his second Rolex Series pole. He will be looking for his third career Rolex Series race victory on Saturday in the car he is sharing with 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis.

"It was a lot of fun to drive," Braun said. "I love this race track, I love the Mexican fans, and it is a very fun event. My engineer, Max (Papis) and I have all been working very hard to get us a good race car. We rolled off of the trailer with a great car. Hopefully we can keep up in the top five. I think our Pontiac engine is real strong here, so I think we will be okay. I look forward to getting this Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley in victory lane."

Starting second will be Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley on the strength of a lap at 1:21.494 (110.438 mph). Fogarty continued a strong weekend for the GAINSCO team, as co-driver Alex Gurney turned the fourth-quickest lap in Thursday practice and the No. 99 machine has been a fixture inside the top five throughout the weekend's practice sessions. It is the second consecutive front-row starting spot for the No. 99 machine, as Gurney started the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona from the pole position, but the team heads into the Mexico City 400k still searching for an elusive first victory.

"The GAINSCO car's quick, but I think we can make it even quicker tomorrow," Fogarty said. "I don't think we would have had anything for Colin, though. He was flying. Starting up front is going to be crazy, and once we hit GT traffic, it's going to be a real dogfight. There's not many places to pass, so it will take quite a bit of patience and a ton of aggression. I'm especially pleased to be performing well here because I've been able to put the special GAINSCO Seguros de Autos paint job right up front."

The No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley team's hopes for a repeat victory in Mexico City were undoubtedly bolstered in qualifying as Mexico City native Memo Rojas put the No. 01 machine on the inside of Row 2 with a lap at 1:21.504 (110.424 mph). It will be just the second Rolex Series start for Rojas, and this weekend marks the first time that he will share a car with 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett. Last year, Pruett and then-co-driver Luis Diaz led every lap en route to the victory at Mexico City. Rojas will be looking for his first Rolex Series win in Saturday's race, while Pruett is looking for his 14th career victory, which would move him into sole possession of first place on the all-time Rolex Series win list.

"The people supporting us here are really amazing," said Rojas. "I am really happy to have a second row start to begin with. It puts us in a good spot. We will make the best of it tomorrow and take the TELMEX Lexus Riley to the front for a win."

Bill Auberlen continued a solid weekend for the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley by putting the car fourth on the grid with a lap at 1:21.586 (110.313 mph). Auberlen turned the quickest lap in Thursday practice in the car he is sharing with co-driver Matthew Alhadeff.

Christian Fittipaldi made it four different engine manufacturers in the top-five starting positions by placing the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Fabcar fifth on the grid at 1:21.643 (110.236 mph). Fittipaldi and co-driver Harrison Brix are sharing an updated Fabcar chassis for the first time this weekend and the qualifying results indicate that the updates are already paying dividends.

In addition to four different engine manufacturers in the top-five positions, four different chassis manufacturers are represented in the top-nine starting spots. Rileys swept the top-four positions, followed by the Fabcar in fifth, a Crawford chassis in eighth and a Doran in ninth. The top eight qualifiers were covered by less than one second.

HAM CLAIMS FIRST CAREER ROLEX SERIES CLASS POLE IN MEXICO CITY

Qualifying for just his fifth career Rolex Series race, Nick Ham placed the No. 70 Mazda/Mazdaspeed RX-8 on the GT class pole position with a class track record lap at 1:28.902 (101.235 mph). In addition to it being Ham's first pole, it was also the first-ever GT pole for the Mazda RX-8, which is competing full-time in the Rolex Series for the first time this year. Ham and SpeedSource team owner/co-driver Sylvain Tremblay head into the Mexico City 400k looking for their first class victories in the series.

"The (No.) 70 SpeedSource Mazda was great in today's qualifying session," Ham said. "We had a track service vehicle come out on track so I knew I had to make my lap count early. The car handled great and I think the RX-8 loves the high altitude here in Mexico. I am excited about the new track record and look forward to the race tomorrow. I think all of the guys at SpeedSource have done a great job and have given us a car very capable of a win"

Starting second in GT will be Leh Keen aboard the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3 following a lap at 1:29.217 (100.878 mph). Keen earned his best result of the 2006 season last year at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a second-place performance and is looking for his second career Rolex Series class victory in the Mexico City 400k. Keen is co-driving with Dominik Farnbacher in the Farnbacher Loles Motorsports machine.

"We had a lot of fun out there," said Keen. "The track is really cool being in the middle of the city. The track has some great turns that can be taken at high speeds. The car is real good we are second and third in qualifying as a team. We will have to chase down the Mazda in the race. It is really, really quick. We will run a smooth race and see if we can get another podium like we did last year."

German racer Dirk Werner made it two Farnbacher Loles machines inside the top-three class positions by putting the No. 87 MarquisJet/Recaro Porsche GT3 third on the grid at 1:29.371 (100.704 mph). Werner and co-driver Bryce Miller are competing full-time in the Rolex Series for the first time this season, and both drivers head into Saturday's race looking for their first class victories.

"The car was good in the qualifying session today," Werner said. "We have a strong car and the whole team is doing a great job. My teammate is performing well and I think we have a great shot at a win."

Starting fourth will be 18-year-old Eric Lux in the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing with a lap at 1:29.388 (100.685 mph). Lux is co-driving with six-time Rolex Series GT race-winner Wolf Henzler. Defending Mexico City GT winner Kelly Collins rounded out the class top five with a lap at 1:29.584 (100.464 mph) in the No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R. Collins is co-driving with Paul Edwards, who has won the GT class in both previous Rolex Series events in Mexico City.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Colin Braun , Bill Auberlen , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Sylvain Tremblay , Memo Rojas , Chip Ganassi , Nick Ham , Wolf Henzler , Harrison Brix , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Dominik Farnbacher , Bob Stallings , Dirk Werner , Bryce Miller
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , SpeedSource