Mexico City Rolex Series Qualifying The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing will start Saturday’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 400K on the outside of the third row after qualifying Friday on the 2.5-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road circuit in downtown Mexico City.
Danish Formula One, Champ Car and sports car racing veteran Jan Magnussen, co-driving with fellow veteran Max Angelelli of Italy, was at the wheel of the SunTrust Racing machine during today’s 20-minute qualifying session for Daytona Prototype-class competitors. Magnussen toured the historic, 14-turn former Formula One circuit with a fast lap of 1 minute, 21.771 seconds (an average of 110.063 mph), sixth best among the 38 car-and-driver combinations entered for Saturday’s 400-kilometer main event, the second stop on the 14-race Rolex Series schedule for 2007.
Having led Thursday’s opening practice session for the weekend, then clocking the third- and fourth-fastest laps in practice late yesterday and this morning, respectively, the SunTrust team was hoping to duplicate its front-row qualifying effort from the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, where it started second and finished third in its maiden voyage under the Wayne Taylor Racing banner.
“It’s a little frustrating that it just wasn’t our day in qualifying today,” said Magnussen, who co-drove to that third-place finish at Daytona with Angelelli, team-owner Wayne Taylor and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. “Even though we had new tires for qualifying, it didn’t improve the car very much from this morning. Yesterday, we had a big gain from used to new tires, and this morning till now, we had no gain or very little gain. We only made some very small changes since the morning practice, so that shouldn’t have been a problem. Maybe the track heated up and got greasy and affected our setup. We need to look at everything now and find out what happened. I guess it will be warmer than this for the race, and we don’t need the car to be like this, again. It’s not very easy to pass people out there. We’ll have to do it mostly in the pits. Otherwise, I think the car will be good in race mode. I’ve never had a bad race car with the SunTrust team. So we’ll have to go out and do what we know how to do tomorrow.”
Magnussen will start Saturday’s scheduled 90-lap event and then turn the SunTrust Racing machine over to Angelelli during the series-mandated driver change. Angelelli and Magnussen drove together six times last season, collaborating on the team’s lone 2006 victory at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., a runner-up finish at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and three other top-five finishes. Magnussen also scored the team’s only pole position of 2006 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
“I can’t say we’re happy with where we’re starting, but I think tomorrow is the important time,” said Taylor, whose new team is running only its second race since it was formed last fall. “I definitely thought we had more than that because we’ve been faster throughout the weekend. Obviously, the series is very competitive. I think we have a good race car, and we have two good drivers and a great team. I think we’ll be in good shape.”
The top-five in qualifying were the following teams:
1. Krohn Racing (No. 75 Pontiac Riley) with Colin Braun and Max Papis (1:21.221 at 110.809 mph)
2. Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing (No. 99 Pontiac Riley) with Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (1:21.494 at 110.438 mph)
3. Telmex/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (No. 01 Lexus Riley) with Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett (1:21.504 at 110.424 mph)
4. Luggage Express/Team Sigalsport (No. 05 BMW Riley) with Bill Auberlen and Matthew Aldaheff (1:21.586 at 110.313 mph)
5. Cheever Racing (No. 39 Porsche Fabcar) with Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix (1:21.643 at 110.236 mph)
Twenty minutes of final practice for the SunTrust Racing team and its fellow Daytona Prototypes is set for 11 a.m. EST Saturday. SPEED-TV will cover the Mexico City 400K live beginning at 4 p.m. EST, with the green flag scheduled to fall at 4:15 p.m. More at Suntrust Racing