Marino Franchitti drove the No. 7 Rand Racing Nissan Lola to a record class pole position in qualifying for Saturday's Rolex Sports Car Series race on the 1.51-mile Phoenix International Raceway road course. His lap time of 56.339 seconds was...
Marino Franchitti drove the No. 7 Rand Racing Nissan Lola to a record class pole position in qualifying for Saturday's Rolex Sports Car Series race on the 1.51-mile Phoenix International Raceway road course. His lap time of 56.339 seconds was good for the SRPII class pole and a track class record. SRPII points leader Terry Borcheller was a close second in the No. 8 Rand Lola (56.580). Bill Rand and Niclas Jönsson will drive the No. 7 car with Franchitti, and Ralf Kelleners will share driving duties in the No. 8.
"I think I'm still in shock," Franchitti said. "I didn't expect to be on the pole. I hoped I could be within a couple of tenths [of a second] of Terry, but to be a couple of tenths in front of him is fantastic. It's testament to the whole Rand/Risi team. Nic and I worked through a program in the test sessions this weekend, and between the two of us we worked the car very close to the other car. To go out there and get the pole for Nic and myself and the whole team is just great. It's just amazing."
"As always, the guys kept the car progressing all weekend and it was the best it's been in qualifying," Borcheller said. "It's going to be a really, really fun race car. I was a bit upset to get nipped by Marino, but he had an outstanding qualifying run. I brought the tires in slowly and they're perfect for the race, so there was no point to go out and try for more."
Fit to race
Bill Rand is reaping the benefits of an intense development program he started last fall to improve his race performance. He frequently practices in a shifter kart in the 110-degree Texas heat, works out with a personal trainer and eats healthy food. He has dropped about 20 pounds and says his fitness helps both his physical driving ability and his mental focus.
"Go-karting has improved everything I've done in the race car; it's improved my reaction time because everything happens so fast in a go-kart," he said. "I want to get my endurance built up a bit more, but now I know that I can physically drive the car better, that's one less thing that I have to worry about. I can just concentrate on driving the line properly and driving the car to the best of my ability."
Franchitti's father, George, attends as many of his sons' races as possible. A former racer, he was the engineer and transport driver for Marino and his brother Dario when they raced go-karts. With Marino often competing in Europe and Dario in the American CART Series, George logs a lot of miles. He says the biggest challenge is "keeping track of everyone - and my golf clubs!" The best part? "Watching them winning. I'm proud of the two of them. They're racing in different categories, no doubt, but they are the best at whatever they do."