On the final lap of qualifying, and by the thinnest of margins, Chilean rookie Martin Scuncio took the pole position for this afternoon's Round 1 of the 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. His lap of 1:10.921 (91.369mph) in the No. 60 Juncos Racing / Fuerza Chile Mazda was just .053sec quicker than local hero, St. Petersburg College student Nick Andries, who, on the previous lap, turned a 1:10.974 (91.201mph) in the Team Pelfrey / Lithionics Battery / GS610 Brake Fluid / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda.
To that point, it looked to be an all-Pelfrey front row with Californian Connor De Phillippi turning a 1:11.238 (90.963mph) in the Team Pelfrey / Justice Brothers Products / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda. Instead, he will start on the inside of the second row, leaving Scuncio in a 'Pelfrey sandwich' that might have tactical implications in the first couple of corners after the green.
"I'm really excited and really happy," said Scuncio. "I am looking forward to the race this afternoon, especially now. The Juncos Racing team did a fantastic job. We are still improving in every session, so that's the best thing of all to me. I'm very happy to be on the pole. I want to thank the Mazda Road to Indy for putting together such a great program. It's really cool to be able to race alongside the IZOD IndyCar Series."
Starting on the outside of the second row will be Irish rookie Patrick McKenna, the 2010 USF2000 championship runner-up who graduated to the Star Mazda Championship this year; his lap of 1:11.417 (90.735mph) puts him fourth on the grid for his first- ever Star Mazda F1-style standing start. Rounding out the top-5 is Tristan Vautier, the French second-season Star Mazda driver who dominated preseason testing at Barber Motorsports Park. He also led the first session of practice at St. Pete on Friday, but Scuncio showed his muscle in the afternoon, relegating Vautier to second on the time sheets.
Colombian second-year Star Mazda driver Tatiana Calderon turned in the best qualifying result of her Star Mazda career with a sixth place starting position for this afternoon's race. The 18-year-old Colombian driver was the third overall fastest driver yesterday.
"I still need some more experience with short qualifying sessions and breaking in new, cold tires, but I'm really happy I'm starting near the top of the grid," said Calderone. "Hopefully I can gain some positions in the race this afternoon."
The top qualifier in the Expert Series for drivers 30 and older was 2010 Expert Series champion J.W. Roberts; he scored the 14th spot on the starting grid with a 1:13.999 (87.569mph) in his No. 65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda.