Hinchcliffe Takes Pole for Race #1
Qualifying for 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda doubleheaders has belonged to Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks), and Hinchcliffe did not disappoint in Friday’s qualifying session for Saturday’s first half of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton doubleheader (ESPN360.com, Champ Car Race Director, Live, 2:30 p.m. ET). Photo by Champ Car
On his final qualifying lap, Hinchcliffe knocked his Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) off the inside of the front row with a lap at 1:06.356 (107.041 mph). It was the third pole of the season for Hinchcliffe, who swept the poles for both races of the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland doubleheader in June. In both of those races, Hinchcliffe finished second and heads into Saturday’s race still looking for his first victory of the 2007 Atlantic season.
Hinchcliffe’s last-lap flyer relegated Matos to second on the grid with a best qualifying lap at 1:06.522 (106.774 mph). It is the fourth time in nine races this season that the Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammates have swept the front row. Matos enters the race with a 30-point lead in the championship standings over French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport/Continental Cartage Inc.), 228-198, and is looking to preserve his lead through the final four races and score the 2007 Atlantic title. The qualifying performances by Hinchcliffe and Matos were all the more impressive considering that Matos was 11th in the first practice session, while Hinchcliffe was 16th.
American Atlantic veteran Alan Sciuto (#20 WS Deans) turned in his best qualifying performance of the season to date and will start third with a lap at 1:06.522 (106.774 mph), which was identical to Matos’ time. Matos got the higher position based on the fact that his second-quickest lap was quicker than Sciuto’s. Sciuto had an eventful qualifying session, as he posted the quickest time of the session, but crashed a few minutes later and damaged his car’s rear wing. The incident brought out a red flag and Sciuto originally lost his best lap, but officials later determined that the red flag should not have been displayed and Sciuto’s time was reinstated.
Perera wound up fourth with a lap at 1:06.585 (106.673 mph). The Frenchman enters the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton as the hottest driver in Atlantic with back-to-back victories at Mont-Tremblant and Toronto and top-five results in all eight of his starts in the series. He was also quickest in the opening practice session for the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton before slipping to fourth in qualifying.
American rookie Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) completed the top five with a lap at 1:06.645 (106.577 mph). It was Skerlong’s best qualifying performance since he claimed fourth on the grid for Round 3 at Houston in April, and the US RaceTronics driver heads into Race #1 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton looking for his first podium result since a second-place run in Houston.
Continuing a recent trend in Atlantic competition, the top-15 qualifiers recorded laps within less than one second of Hinchcliffe’s pole-winning time.
• Italian rookie Giacomo Ricci (#18 Banca Italease/Lotto/Global) posted his third top-six qualifying result in four races with a sixth-place qualifying effort. Ricci’s best lap was 1:06.773 (106.372 mph).
• David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT) claimed the best starting position of his Atlantic career with an eighth-place qualifying performance at 1:06.832 (106.278 mph). Garza’s previous best qualifying performance were runs of 11th at Houston, Race #1 at Portland and Mont-Tremblant.
• Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Continental Cartage Inc./Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) did not post a time in Friday’s qualifying session after crashing during the morning practice session. However, Strous is expected to compete in Saturday’s race.
Quotes from the top-three qualifiers for Race #1 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton follow below:
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “I wish we had a doubleheader every weekend. We seem to get along all right with these double events. It was a tough start to the weekend for us because this morning was just devastating. It’s okay for me to reveal now that was actually planned. We wanted everybody to think we were struggling, but really we knew what was going on. No, honestly, we didn’t really know what to expect coming into qualifying because we were definitely pretty far off the pace this morning. The Sierra Sierra crew, just as always, did such a good job putting everything together. We had a pretty clean session. I was finding time in the car every lap, just kind of getting my confidence back after losing a bit this morning. I was going to go for it when we had that last red, and I didn’t think we were going to get back out. We did and it was kind of a two-lap sprint. I’ve kind of earned myself the nickname ‘Last Lap Hinch,’ and I guess it paid off this race. I feel that we had a little bit more. I actually made a mistake on my quick lap, and obviously these guys didn’t get the best of what they wanted. For us, it’s a good result and a good place to start for tomorrow, and also a good base to start from for qualifying for Race #2.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (#6 ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “I was a little bit disappointed this morning with the result, but the Sierra Sierra team again did an amazing job. We made some modifications on the car for qualifying and the car was very competitive, very fast. I’m very happy that both of us are here in the top-two spots. Unfortunately, traffic played a factor again in qualifying. I had a problem two laps from the end, and I think that was definitely a couple tenths (of a second) right there. But I believe that we have a very strong car for tomorrow. I have to think on the championship. James is on the pole and Perera is right behind me. Hopefully, the top-three cars will have a safe start tomorrow and we’ll have a good race and put on a good show for the fans.”
ALAN SCIUTO (#20 WS Deans) of Alan Sciuto Racing: “Gerald Tyler (engineer) put a great setup on the car. The car rolled off the truck great, so I knew I had something to work with. We made a few changes to the car for qualifying and the car was really good. We went to P1 for awhile. We had P1 for four laps or so and I heard on the radio that they were getting closer and closer and I was trying to stay on it, especially since I was on a lap that was faster than my pole lap, but I pushed a little too hard, but luckily, there wasn’t that much damage and I was able to drive it back. Hopefully, tomorrow we can try to go for the first pole this year. It’s nice to finally be up there.”
Pos Driver Lap Time Behind
1 James Hinchcliffe 1:06.356 0.000
2 Raphael Matos 1:06.522 0.166
3 Franck Perera 1:06.585 0.229
4 Carl Skerlong 1:06.645 0.289
5 Alan Sciuto 1:06.657 0.301
6 Giacomo Ricci 1:06.773 0.417
7 Jonathan Bomarito 1:06.791 0.435
8 David Garza 1:06.832 0.476
9 Ryan Lewis 1:06.845 0.489
10 John Edwards 1:06.939 0.583
11 Robert Wickens 1:06.981 0.625
12 J.R. Hildebrand 1:07.092 0.736
13 Simona De Silvestro 1:07.135 0.779
14 Kevin Lacroix 1:07.182 0.826
15 Matt Lee 1:07.239 0.883
16 Adrian Carrio 1:07.398 1.042
17 Justin Sofio 1:07.648 1.292
18 Tom Sutherland 1:07.779 1.423
19 Mike Forest 1:07.893 1.537
20 Richard Heistand 1:08.266 1.910
21 Adrien Herberts 1:08.668 2.312
22 Brian Thienes 1:08.885 2.529
23 Frankie Muniz 1:09.714 3.358