Hinchcliffe wins both poles in Portland
James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) continued his dominance at Portland International Raceway on Saturday morning by taking his second consecutive Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda pole position for Sunday's second race of a doubleheader weekend at the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoors.
In a session that included changing conditions and intermittent light rain, Hinchcliffe turned the fastest Atlantic lap of the weekend to date at 1:05.991 (107.142 mph) to score his second pole in as many races. Hinchcliffe, who also won last year's Atlantic event at Portland, has led every practice and qualifying session this weekend.
"Obviously, the session was good for us," Hinchcliffe said. "To be back on pole again, I can't complain about that. It was a tricky one, though. With such a tight track, it was a lot of trouble trying to get a clean lap, and there were a few guys playing little games. Ultimately, it came out good for us. It kind of started to spit (rain) a little bit, which made things more interesting, and we had a red flag right as I went out on my new tires. I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to get back out for a time, but I managed to get back out and get pole by a decent margin. I've got to thank the Sierra Sierra guys. They did a great job again, and hopefully we can do the same this afternoon and tomorrow."
Hinchcliffe will be joined on the front row by his Canadian countryman, Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select), who turned in an impressive qualifying time of 1:06.267 (106.696 mph). Lacroix is making his first Champ Car Atlantic appearance this weekend and will compete in his first Atlantic race later this afternoon. Lacroix, who brings experience from Star Mazda and Formula BMW USA, was understandably pleased with his qualifying performance.
"We worked hard last night to find the right setup and it worked," Lacroix said. "Before the red flag, I couldn't seem to get a clear lap. We put on new tires. I told them to keep the same setup, we went out there, and continued to be better and better. It was not quite enough for the pole, but this is just great for my first time in Atlantic. What a great series. I love the competition here."
Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) will start third on the strength of a best lap at 1:06.267 (106.696 mph). The Frenchman saw a substantial improvement from Friday's qualifying session, when he qualified 14th. It is Perera's third top-three qualifying performance in five races this season.
"It was a difficult session, because the weather came in and that was a big factor," Perera said. "We had to change our strategy, because the conditions changed midway through the session. It was tough to get through traffic."
Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) was fourth in qualifying with a lap at 1:06.469 (106.371 mph) for his second top-five qualifying effort in as many days. Wickens qualified fifth yesterday for this afternoon's race. Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI/Deans Knight/Wasteco)--who qualified fourth on Friday--will start fifth for Sunday's race with a best lap at 1:06.601 (106.161 mph).
Points leader Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) will start eighth in Sunday's race, his lowest starting position of the season. Champ Car