Di Leo on Pole at Road America Capping off a stunning comeback from his troubles at Toronto that saw him excluded from the results and then re-instated, Canadian racer Marco Di Leo put his #21 Maxwell Paper Racing/Nugget Mazda on the pole for Saturday’s Round Eight of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship with a lap of 2:06.670. DiLeo, who won the season-opener at Sebring, is now – with his one point for winning the pole -- tied with Jonathan Goring for 3rd in the championship with 214 points.
“The track was a bit slippery with all the different types of rubber from all the series running this weekend on the track, but the Maxwell Paper team gave me a great car and I feel confident about our chances tomorrow,” says the Toronto native. “We have a new sponsor on board this weekend and for the rest of the season, Nugget, and I’m very pleased to have their very distinctive race car on the pole for this event.”
Qualifying second was Australian racer James Davison who put the #7 Easternats/Velocity Motorsports Mazda on the outside of the front row with a lap of 2:06.762. Davison, who has started from the pole twice so far this season, has two podium finishes, two top-5 finishes and is currently second in the championship points battle with 216.
Davison actually turned the third-fastest lap, but inherited the second spot when Nick Haye, driver of the #37 Quantum Sphere/JCD Motorsports Mazda forfeited his fastest lap due to a penalty incurred for causing a full-course yellow at the previous race in Toronto.
“I feel bad for Nick, but that’s racing and after the luck I’ve had this season, I feel a front-row start is payback for a lot of hard work by the team getting it all turned around,” said Davison. “I love high-speed turns and natural road courses, so Road America is just my kind of track, certainly one of the top-5 circuits in the world. I was a bit tense in qualifying because a red flag came out just as I went out, and that’s always a problem here because of the long laps, but they got it cleaned up quickly and I was able to put in a good time.”
The other beneficiary of Nick Haye’s slow-motion misfortune was Natacha Gachnang, of St. Gingolph, Switzerland. The lone female driver in Star Mazda, she made series history earlier in the season with back-to-back podium finishes at Portland and Cleveland. Rebounding from a difficult race on the narrow street circuit at Toronto, she put the #35 AIM Autosport Mazda third on the grid with a lap of 2:06.848. This is the first time she has qualified in the top-10.
“I was 1.7 seconds off the pace in practice because we had the car set up too soft,” she said. “But my engineer and I worked hard overnight to get a new setup for the car for qualifying and it was very good. The car is difficult to drive, but very fast. The track is a little slippery, but it’s very much like the European circuits I’m used to and I just love it.”
Rounding out the top-5 were another Canadian, Devin Cunningham, and Louisiana native Alex Ardoin. Cunningham, who won Round Five at Portland and is currently 6th in the points with 203, drove his #33 Discovery Channel / AIM Autosport Mazda to a lap of 2:07.002. Ardoin, who surprised the field with a 3rd-place finish in Toronto, piloted his #51 Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Mundill Mazda to a lap of 2:07.003.
Series points leader Dane Cameron, who has won three races so far this season and started from the pole four times, is enduring a difficult weekend. Fastest in one of the three practice sessions on Thursday, his Friday qualifying effort was spoiled by an engine severely down on power. He managed 8th on the grid in his #19 JDC Motorsports/Finlay Motorsports Mazda with a lap of 2:07.152.
The top qualifier in the Expert Series for drivers in the 20 – 44 age range, was Richard Zober of Newtown, PA. His lap of 2:11.744 in the #66 Zober Industries / Comprent Motorsports Mazda was good for 21st on the grid. In the Master Series for drivers over 45, Gerry Kraut of North Oaks, MN qualified 17th on the grid with a lap of 2:09.744 in his Dougherty & Co. / JDC Motorsports Mazda.
Road America is Round Eight of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship schedule and the 45-minute Star Mazda race will take the green flag at11:40 am Saturday morning.
Star Mazda races are broadcast tape-delayed on SPEED TV. Date and time (all times stated are Eastern and subject to change) for the one-hour broadcast is available at www.speedtv.com/programs. The Road America race is scheduled to air on Saturday, August 18 at 3:00 pm with a re-broadcast on Monday, August 20 at 3:00 pm.
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