For the fourth time in the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season, Jonathan Summerton will start from the pole position in the Grand Prix of Mosport after a weather-challenged qualifying session on Saturday afternoon at Mosport International Raceway.
The start of the qualifying session was slightly delayed due to wet and foggy conditions and the scheduled 30-minute session was shortened by two minutes. While it rained significantly earlier in the day, the rain stopped prior to the start of Atlantic qualifying and track conditions improved throughout the session.
The Newman Wachs Racing team ensured that Summerton's No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine was well suited to the changing conditions and the 21-year-old American did the rest, turning a lap at 1:12.060 (122.848 mph) to take the pole by more than three tenths of a second. Summerton previously took poles at Sebring in March, the first race of the doubleheader at New Jersey in June and earlier this month at Mid-Ohio. He is looking for his third victory of the season in Sunday's race.
“It was fair for everybody,” Summerton said following qualifying. “The track did dry up probably about seven or eight laps from the end, the whole track was very similar. Basically, we just kept pushing and I just had to keep the car on the edge. That's what everybody has been telling me it was. It was on the edge, but you've got to to get it on pole and I think we had it by like four tenths (of a second). I'm very happy to be there. The guys did a great job. Don Halliday, my engineer, and all the team, and (team owner) Eddie Wachs, I'd like to thank them for allowing me to do this. I also want to thank everybody else involved: Cooper Tires, Mazda and Cosworth, of course.”
Starting alongside Summerton on the front row will be points leader Simona De Silvestro in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies entry from Team Stargate Worlds. De Silvestro posted a best lap at 1:12.375 (122.313 mph) to take second after posting the fifth-best time from Friday's practice sessions. She has won four times this season and has finished on the podium in her last eight consecutive races.
“After the practices yesterday, I think we worked a little bit in the wrong direction,” De Silvestro said. “It kind of messed us up a little bit, but we were pretty confident that we had a car that could be quick. This morning with the rain, I really like the rain, so it was good. Then, it started drying up so you really had to push really hard and not do a mistake and just try to put a lap in. Jonathan did a great job. He was a little bit quicker than us. We tried to do something with the setup for the rain, and I think we went a little bit overboard with it, but I'm really happy to start second, because especially (John) Edwards is our main competition for the championship and he's a little bit behind, so I'm really happy to start on the front row. We're going to try everything to win or at least finish on the podium. I'm really happy.”
Rookie Frederic Vervisch starts from a familiar spot for his this season as he put Genoa Racing's No. 17 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki machine third on the grid at 1:12.486 (122.126 mph). It is the fifth time in 10 races this season that the Belgian has qualified third and he has finished on the podium three times this season with a best result of second in the season opener at Sebring. The Rookie of the Year points leader is still looking for his first career Atlantic victory.
“It was challenging in the beginning because nobody drove in the wet, but I realized it was getting quite dry,” Vervisch said. “I think I was the first to go in for dry tires and we put not a new set on but older and the car felt okay. After a couple of laps we went in and put the new tires on and just tried to push. I think we did quite a good job. The car was bad to understeer but it was more of a rain setting. It was difficult to catch the time of Summerton. He had a big advantage. It's only a shame that Simona came in front of us the last lap. Here we are again in P3. We'll try to have a good start and the car should be good for tomorrow. I think we can do a good job.”
After posting the second-quickest time in Friday practice, Edwards slipped to fourth on the starting grid with a best qualifying lap at 1:12.572 (121.981 mph) in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine. The Newman Wachs Racing driver is second in the point standings to De Silvestro by a count of 156-135.
Edwards qualified one spot ahead of his Atlantic Championship teammate from two years ago, Canadian driver Robert Wickens in the No. 18 Genoa Racing entry. Wickens – who is making a guest appearance in this weekend's race and is contesting the full FIA Formula Two season in Europe – posted a best qualifying lap at 1:12.806 (121.589 mph). It will be Wickens' first Atlantic start since the 2007 season finale at Road America more than two years ago.
TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada – Qualifying results for Round 9 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, with starting position, driver, hometown or country, car number, team, time and speed in mph:
1. Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:12.060, 122.848 mph.
2. Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:12.375, 122.313 mph.
3. Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:12.486, 122.126 mph.
4. John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:12.572, 121.981 mph.
5. Robert Wickens, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, No. 18 Genoa Racing, 1:12.806, 121.589 mph.
6. Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 1:12.810, 121.582 mph.
7. Borja Garcia (R), Spain, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 1:13.271, 120.817 mph.
8. Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 1:13.946, 119.714 mph.
9. Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:15.704, 116.934 mph.
10. Eric Jensen, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 1:19.109, 111.901 mph.
(R) Series Rookie