Andersen Racing's Hall Earns Second Starting Spot For Star Mazda Season Opener at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 13 - Andersen Racing's Charles Hall only had two laps to get down to business in Star Mazda qualifying Thursday afternoon at ...
Andersen Racing's Hall Earns Second Starting Spot For Star Mazda Season Opener at Sebring
SEBRING, Fla., March 13 - Andersen Racing's Charles Hall only had two laps to get down to business in Star Mazda qualifying Thursday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway, but he was up to the challenge.
A red flag just two laps into the Star Mazda series' fastest group's qualifying session gave its drivers only enough time to complete two additional flying laps before time ran out. Hall made the most of the opportunity, rising from fifth at the break in the action to second at the end of the session.
Hall, whose arrangement to compete in this race only gelled last week, changed his car number from 22 to 77 because he said 77 is a luckier number. Apparently it is, as he'll share Row 1 with polesitter Joel Miller thanks to a qualifying time that was just 1.091 seconds off Miller's best lap. Hall's Pardoes Solicitors-sponsored entry's best lap was done in 2:01.542 for an average speed of 109.592 miles an hour for the bumpy, 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course.
Despite it being his first Star Mazda race ever, the driver from Sheffield, England was able to get the series' brand-new Goodyear radial tires to come in fast enough on the restart. He'll have another challenge in the 45-minute race at 2:50 p.m. tomorrow, when the series stages its first standing start ever.
The great qualifying result was a big boost for Hall, who is resuming his career after receiving serious injuries in a traffic accident caused by a drunk driver in 2005. It also was cause for celebration by the team's sponsor, Allied Building Products Corp.
Hall was fifth-fastest to Miller at the end of lap two when the second- and third-place cars of Ernesto Otero and Alex Ardoin brought out the red flag. Otero ended up in a tire wall at the exit of Turn 5, and Ardoin came to a halt with mechanical difficulties in Turn 7. Two other Andersen Racing drivers, Tom Gladdis and Yannick Hofman, were right behind Hall in the standings in sixth and seventh during the pause in the action.
There was only time for two more flying laps, but Hall made the most of them to rise to second in the qualifying rundown.
Otero and Ardoin weren't penalized for bringing out the red, so when the final starting line-up was posted Andersen Racing's Peter Dempsey of Ashbourne, County Meath, Ireland was sixth with his No. 21. Gladdis, of Gibraltar, ended up ninth in the Marrache & Co. No. 5. Hofman, who is from Rosemere, Quebec, was tenth in the Jig-A-Loo No. 00. Juliana Gonzalez of Mexico City, Mexico, who was one of the stars of the first group's qualifying session, will start 17th in tomorrow's race in the fifth Andersen Racing entry, the No. 11.
Gladdis was the fastest of the five Andersen Racing drivers in five practice sessions here. Dempsey topped everyone in the second test session Monday, with Gladdis second.
Miller's pole was not a new track record. That is still held by Dane Cameron, who set the mark last year. In 2006 Andersen Racing won the pole for this race with a new track record set by Brad Jaeger, and also the race itself with Gerardo Bonilla's entry. Both are driving Prototypes now; Jaeger in the Rolex Series and Bonilla in the ALMS.
Tomorrow afternoon's 45-minute race supports Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring American Le Mans Series season opener. It is scheduled to be shown on SPEED at 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, March 30.
The second Star Mazda race of the year is slated for May 17 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The series will then appear at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on June 7, which replaces the cancelled Houston date. The complete schedule and other information are posted on the series' Web site at starmazda.com. The team's Web site is at andersenracingteam.com.
The Andersen Racing drivers' post-qualifying quotes follow:
Charles Hall: "To be on the front row in my first race in two years and my first Star Mazda race ever, I'm just over the moon with the results and the car that Andersen Racing gave me.
"The red flag forced us all to try to go as fast as we could as quickly as we could. I just tried to get the most I could get out of the tires.
"These tires take about five laps to come in, and we didn't have five laps. I knew that every lap after the restart would count, so I just pushed, pushed, pushed.
"This is the first time I've been on this track since 2005, when I ran the Fran-Am Winter Series. It was about negative 8 for that race; today is nice and warm. It's also my first Star Mazda race ever."
Peter Dempsey: "We just didn't go quick enough. We're still struggling a bit. I need to look at the data and see where we can make up some time. I'm a bit frustrated at the moment because we didn't have the results in qualifying that we had in practice."
Tom Gladdis: "Practice went real well. I got on pace well, and we had good results. We didn't get the results we wanted in qualifying because of the issue with the car that crashed in Turn 5 and the guy that stopped in Turn 7. That didn't give me enough time to really get going again. If we'd had a few laps more we would have done better, but the time frame we had to work with made things difficult. But I think we have a good car for the race."
Yannick Hofman: "Everything was on track to be perfect for qualifying; I started fast and everything was good. Then when we had the red, I just lost my momentum. I came back on the track but I had some mistakes on the next two laps.
"The Jig-A-Loo car was pretty good. We hope to be good during the race tomorrow. My goal tomorrow is to be certain to have a good finish. I think there's going to be lots of wrecks. I want to stay out of them and have a good finish. My focus is the championship, and every point is important."
Juliana Gonzalez: "We started out first or second in our group, but then in the middle of the session we had a problem and we went backwards. We were consistent in our times and we were fast until we had the problem. We're working on it, and if we can make that problem go away we can be strong contenders tomorrow.
"This track is fast and real physical. It's super fun to drive!"