CLEVELAND (June 30, 2001) - Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group earned his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 Saturday when he qualified fastest for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at...
CLEVELAND (June 30, 2001) - Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group earned his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 Saturday when he qualified fastest for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport (1 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) collected the fourth pole position of his career and his first on a temporary street circuit when he put together a lap of 132.185 miles per hour (57.356 seconds) on the 2.106-mile layout constructed on the airport runways. The pole was his first since the 1997 season finale at California Speedway, where Gugelmin established a then-world closed course speed record of 240.942 miles per hour.
The record stood for three years before being broken by Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske with a lap of 241.428 mph at California Speedway last year.
Gugelmin collected a championship point for Saturday's performance, giving him eight for the season. In an unusual occurrence, Gugelmin's pole-winning effort came out of the first ½-hour qualifying group, the one with fewer championship points.
The second group, consisting of the drivers with the most championship points, was plagued by a scattered shower that soaked the track just before the green flag and actually brought on a red flag condition midway through the ½-hour. The track remained damp when the session resumed after a 35-minute delay, with the result that none of the second-group qualifiers was able to threaten Gugelmin's time.
Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green was the fastest driver of the second group, with a lap of 126.776 mph (59.803 seconds), which placed him 14th overall.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing, the only owner/driver in the FedEx Championship Series, qualified a season-best second at 131.815 mph (57.517 seconds). Rookie Max Wilson (winner B2B.com/ Arciero/Blair Racing Ford Lola) qualified third at 130.961 mph (57.892 seconds) for the best start of his rookie season.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Bryan Herta (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard) of Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing, fourth at 130.934 mph (57.904 seconds) and Memo Gidley (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth at 130.907 mph (57.916 seconds).
FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal qualified 17th at 122.300 mph (1 minute, 1.992 seconds). Brack holds a 76-69 championship lead over reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske entering Sunday's ninth round of the championship.
Castroneves qualified 23rd at 118.176 mph (1:04.155).
Defending Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firststar champion Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing qualified 25th in the 26-car field, at 113.221 mph (1:06.963).
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland is Round 9 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN, Nextel PacWest Toyota: "Normally in these situations, we know we've got two different sessions, and we know we have to put in something very special up there. Our main focus was to do a good, clean, fast lap. The situation today with the rain, we knew we would be up there, but we didn't think we'd stay on pole. Hopefully, we can come up with a solution that is fair for everyone. I'm very pleased with how the car ran here. We showed last year we could do that, and I'm very happy to be on pole. But I would like to see changes in the [qualifying] format to make it fair for everybody."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard: "We were very happy with the car since we unloaded. Unfortunately, on Saturday morning, we lost the turbo in the primary car. We didn't have the same things in the backup car, and there were some changes I would have liked to make, but we didn't have time. I knew we had a good car in qualifying, but Mauricio was also very strong. I don't feel bad about the guys in the back to be honest. I've had good cars before and had to be in the back. The guys are so close, there's maybe half a second between the top 15."
MAX WILSON, winner B2B.com/ Arciero/Blair Racing Ford Lola: "The guys have been working very hard. Last weekend it showed when we got our first points. Before we were struggling with engines and other things. The race track is very difficult for us, we've never been here before, and I spent most of the day yesterday learning the track. We changed the car a lot, especially between the morning practice and qualifying, but we definitely found better setups for the car. We got lucky that it rained on the second group, but the car was good. Maybe we would have been in the Top 10 or 12. That's the first time we had better track conditions than them [the second group], we're still at a disadvantage."
* Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) earned the first street-course pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career Saturday. His previous best street-course start was second at Miami in 1995. Gugelmin's previous poles have come at Rio de Janeiro, Road America and California Speedway, all in 1997.
* Gugelmin's pole was the second of the season for Toyota, joining Bruno Junqueira's (Target Toyota Lola) at Nazareth. It is Toyota's first road- or street-course pole since Juan Montoya's at Australia last season.
* Adrian Fernandez' (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) outside pole-winning performance represents his best qualifying effort since winning the outside pole position at Michigan Speedway in 1999. It is the best road or street-course qualifying performance of Fernandez' nine-year FedEx Championship Series career.
* Max Wilson (winner B2B.com/ Arciero/Blair Racing Ford Lola) qualified a career-best third in the sixth start of his FedEx Championship Series career. His previous career-best start was 19th at Portland last week.
* Memo Gidley (Target Toyota Lola) qualified a career-best fifth for his 24th FedEx Championship Series start. His previous qualifying best had been 10th at Long Beach last season.
Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 1 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .