In a wet qualifying session at Lime Rock Park, 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda points leader Simona De Silvestro scored her third pole position of the season on her final qualifying lap.
Driving the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry for Team Stargate Worlds, De Silvestro posted a time of 59.624 seconds (90.568 mph) as she took the checkered flag on the 25-minute session, knocking Borja Garcia from what would have been the first pole of his Atlantic career. Instead, De Silvestro starts from P1 for the third time in five starts this season and heads into tomorrow’s race looking to win, just as she did on the two previous occasions she started from pole this year.
“It was crazy, especially with the rain,” De Silvestro said. “We started with a new set of rain tires, so it took a long while to get grip. I caught traffic at the end, so I was really nervous, but I could put one lap together on the last lap. It was just a perfect lap. I really have to thank the whole Stargate team, because they were running around just before the session because they didn’t know what to do with the cars. I really want to thank (engineer) Burke Harrison, too, for giving me a car like this every weekend. I hope we can keep it like this tomorrow and win tomorrow. I’m really excited.”
Despite De Silvestro’s last-lap flyer, Garcia still picked up the best qualifying result of his young Atlantic career with a lap at 59.916 seconds (90.126 mph) and will start second in the No. 6 Celebfilms.co.uk/CJConsulting.us machine for Condor Motorsports. The Spanish rookie is currently fifth in the championship standings and will be looking to improve upon a previous best result of third in the first race of last month’s doubleheader at New Jersey Motorsports Park in tomorrow’s race at Lime Rock.
“Until the last lap, I was on pole, but on the last lap, Simona was faster by three tenths (of a second),” said Garcia. “We’ll see tomorrow, because today in the dry conditions, the car is good, and also in the wet. I’m starting on the front row, I don’t have anybody in front, and we’ll see what happens on the start and also in the race. It’s a long race. I’m really confident, because I think finally my team and I have a good setup for this race and this car. I hope to continue in this way.”
Starting third for the fourth time in five races will be Frederic Vervisch in the No. 17 Roularta/Isomo/Genoa Racing car at 1:00.037 (89.945 mph). The Belgian leads the Rookie of the Year standings by 20, 52-32, over Garcia and has finished on the podium in three of his first four series starts. However, he is also looking for his first career Atlantic victory tomorrow.
“It was OK," Vervisch said. “We were on the front row the whole time. The car was actually quite good, and we improved it in the rain from last time in New Jersey. It suited me well. It’s only a shame that on the last lap, I went off at the chicane. Otherwise, I think P1 was for sure possible, but we will see how it will work tomorrow. It’s again P3, so I’m getting used to it. We will do our best for tomorrow.”
Defending series champion Markus Niemela acquitted himself well in his first ride aboard the No. 1 Jensen MotorSport machine, posting the fourth-quickest qualifying time at 1:00.282 (89.579 mph). He finished fourth in both of his last two Atlantic starts at New Jersey last month while driving for Newman Wachs Racing.
His former teammate, John Edwards, rounded out the top five with a lap at 1:00.348 (89.481 mph) in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry. Edwards, the 2008 Star Mazda champion, is looking for his second Atlantic victory of the season and his third podium result in five starts. He enters the race sitting third in the championship standings, trailing De Silvestro by 13 points (68-55) and new teammate Jonathan Summerton by five markers (60-55). Summerton starts sixth in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine at 1:00.473 (89.296 mph). The top six drivers in the session turned laps within one second of De Silvestro’s pole-winning time.
1. Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 59.624 sec., 90.568 mph.
2. Borja Garcia (R), Spain, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 59.916 sec., 90.126 mph.
3. Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:00.037, 89.945 mph.
4. Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 1:00.282, 89.579 mph.
5. John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:00.348, 89.481 mph.
6. Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:00.473, 89.296 mph.
7. Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 1:00.628, 89.068 mph.
8. James Winslow (R), United Kingdom, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 1:00.839, 88.759 mph.
9. Matt Lee, Syosset, N.Y., No. 12 Conquest Racing, 1:00.879, 88.701 mph.
10. Frankie Muniz, Scottsdale, Ariz., No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:01.034, 88.475 mph.
11. Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:03.205, 85.436 mph.
12. Michael Nacol (R), Houston, Texas, No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 1:05.110, 82.937 mph.
13. Richard Zober, Newtown, Pa., No. 66 Polestar Motor Racing, 1:05.675, 82.223 mph.