Lexington, OH (June 20, 2009) – Morning rain greeted the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup drivers Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when they took to the track for practice and qualifying. Saturday's action marked the series’ first visit to the 13-turn, 2.25 mile road course in Lexington, Ohio.
The track started off dry during the morning practice session, so the drivers began on their traditional slick Pirelli racing tires. However, a steady rain began to fall half way into the session, which added an extra challenge for the competitors since a tire change wasn’t permitted. Despite having no experience at the track, series veteran, Mark Pombo topped the speed charts in practice with a time of 1:42.272 (79.482 mph).
Much to the delight of the drivers and spectators, the track dried in time for the 30-minute qualifying session, and the speeds and competition really picked up. When the checkered flag fell on the session, rookie Devin Cates was left with the top time (1:40.176 / 81.152 mph), marking the Broad Run, Virginia native’s first pole of the season. Joey Atterbury (1:40.188 / 81.135 mph) and Timmy Megenbier (1:40.300 / 81.044 mph) rounded out the top three spots. The competition during qualifying was incredibly close with 10 of the 24 drivers within one second of one other.
“I’ve driven here at Mid-Ohio in other series, so I definitely think that the experience I brought to the track this weekend gave me an edge,” Cates said. “Qualifying was a bit of a challenge at the beginning, because I was having difficulty finding proper spacing on the track. However, Mark Pombo and I started to work together, and I was able to put together my best lap right before the checkered flag flew. It’s a great start for the weekend, but tomorrow is what it’s all about. There are plenty off opportunities for overtaking on this track, which should make for a great race.”
Car & Driver Executive Editor, Mark Gillies is serving as a guest driver in the series at Mid-Ohio. He didn’t let his lack of experience in the Jetta TDI Cup racecar limit his ability to compete with the series regulars. Gillies was just off the pole speed and posted a best time of 1:40.624 (80.7884 mph). He will start seventh for tomorrow’s race, marking the highest starting position for a guest driver this season.
“This morning was a bit of a challenge for me since I hadn’t been in the car before, and the rain only made things worse,” said Gillies. “However, I was able to get a sense of what the car needs to be able to run quickly. After the session, I sat down and looked at the data and was able to pick up a few things that made me quicker in qualifying. There’s a lot of talent in this series, so I’m fairly pleased with my results given that this is my first time in this car. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hang with the front pack tomorrow and turn in a solid finish.”
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series returns to action tomorrow at 11 am ET at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Round 4 of the season. Live timing and scoring is available at http://www.livetiming.net/SCCA/VW/livetiming.asp.