MONTERREY, Mexico (March 9, 2001) - Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) returned to Mexico with in fine form Friday where he won the provisional pole for the inaugural Dayton Indy Lights Championship race in the...
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 9, 2001) - Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) returned to Mexico with in fine form Friday where he won the provisional pole for the inaugural Dayton Indy Lights Championship race in the Telmex Tecate Grand Prix of Monterey. Higgins, who raced and lived in Mexico for five years, established the course record of 87.546 mph (86.519 seconds) on the 2.104-mile track at Fundidora Park.
Higgins won the 1995 and 1997 Mexican Formula 3 championships and proved why Friday in the first day of competition in Monterrey. Starting his first full season with Mexpro Racing, that is owned by Nuevo Leon resident Rodolfo Junco, Higgins was the driver to beat all day. He was fastest in both the morning's practice session and in Friday's first round qualifying.
"I'm very happy to be on the team and it's nice to have the team based here in Monterrey," Higgins said. "The owner of the team is Senor Junco, who is a very important businessman here in Monterrey and it's nice that for the start, to have the chance to be able to have a good position to have a good weekend and start the year properly."
Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) qualified second at an average speed of 87.180 mph (86.882 seconds) while his new Dorricott Racing teammate Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) was third quick at an average speed of 86.527 mph (87.538 seconds).
Although the brand new circuit was fairly dirty for the morning's sessions, the track continued to improve in the afternoon. Another new track record is expected to be established Saturday.
"Obviously it (the track) gets faster, with each lap the more rubber gets down, the more dirt comes out of the track," Bell said. "Off line it's still quite bad, hopefully there will a way to improve that before Sunday or else it will be pretty processional around here because it just can not run off line with much grip at all and that will make it really tough to get around people."
Behind the top three came two more rookie drivers. Formula 3000 veteran Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola) was fourth fastest while a third Dorricott driver, Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) was fifth fastest.
"Just like last year with three cars is a big advantage because you can gather a lot of data on the new track that we haven't been to before in the first session," Bell said. "We can work with a few different approaches and then consolidate that and try to come up with something that works for each one of us. Ultimately it's the fine tuning for each driver, but clearly if Damien is in the top five, we're looking pretty good as a team and it's nice to start off the season that way."
"It' great and Fundidora is muy bueno, very good," Faulkner said. "I really like it, it's good to come down to Mexico and be in a new place and do well, anywhere you do well you end up liking it. I think once the track comes around a bit more it keeps getting more fun. It more than lives up to my expectations, I'm happy to be with Dorricott Racing, prepping the car and putting it together, it's really fantastic and the car, it's a natural and it responses to the changes I want to make in it. My engineering staff is really great. The power is fun and the faster you go the better it is."
Higgins' teammate Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) was as high as third during qualifying and ended up sixth.
Final qualifying is tomorrow and Sunday's race will be televised on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET (8 p.m. PT).