De Silvestro Quickest in Atlantic Practice
Approximately 13 months ago, Simona De Silvestro became the second woman in the history of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda to win a race when she triumphed at Long Beach.
She could be on the verge of her second victory in the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix on Sunday if her Friday practice times at Miller Motorsports Park are any indication. De Silvestro led both of the day’s sessions, posting an overall quickest time of 1:37.196 (112.894 mph) in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/CME/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies/Maakoa entry from Team Stargate Worlds.
De Silvestro was 0.382 seconds quicker in the afternoon session than her next closest competitor, John Edwards. She was 0.241 seconds faster than Jonathan Summerton in the morning session. Her performance was all the more impressive considering that she was battling a bit of a cold on Friday.
“I think everybody went quicker in this (second) session,” said De Silvestro. “We made a few little changes just to see if we can improve a little, and we did, so I’m really happy. We’re really, consistently fast, so I think we’re going to be good. Now we just have to put it together in qualifying, where it really counts. I hope tomorrow is going to be a good day. When I drive, the sickness goes away, but I hope tomorrow I’m going to be not sick anymore and just be fine so maybe I can be even a little quicker.”
Edwards spent both of the day’s practice sessions in the top three as he posted the third-quickest time in the morning session. He enters the Utah Grand Prix as the points leader by virtue of his victory in the season opener at Sebring in March and is looking to make it back-to-back victories in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy machine for Newman Wachs Racing.
“It was a good session, but we’re still a little under four tenths (of a second) off,” said Edwards. “I’ve got to keep the big picture in mind for the championship. We’ve always said we’re aiming for the top three every race. That’s what wins championships, so I’ve got that in mind. At the same time, I want the glory. I want pole tomorrow and to win the race on Sunday. We’ll go back and work on it, but it’s going to be tough. They’ve been dominating every practice session here. It’s going to be tough to beat Simona tomorrow, but we’ve been taking bites out of it. We’ll see if we can get it done tomorrow.”
Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch completed the top three with a lap at 1:37.591 (112.437 mph) in the No. 17 Genoa Racing entry. Vervisch has been quick throughout the early stages of his Atlantic career, as he was inside the top-three throughout the practice and qualifying sessions at Sebring prior to a second-place race result.
“We changed some things on the car to get me more confident and it worked out, so that’s quite okay,” Vervisch said. “We’re still missing quite some time on the pole. Simona is really fast, so we have to find out, together with (teammate) Jonathan (Summerton), where we can improve. It’s always good to improve, so we’ll look out for tomorrow. It’s a nice track. My first impression is there are not so many corners where you can make a lot of time. I expected that everything would be really close and you have to be always 200 percent focused. To put a perfect, perfect lap together is really difficult, because they’re all good drivers. You have to be faster than the other one and it’s not easy, but it’s a nice environment.”
Defending series champion Markus Niemela logged the fourth-quickest time of the day at 1:37.626 (112.396 mph) in the No. 1 Mr. Jones/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NWR machine for Newman Wachs Racing. Niemela earned his first career Atlantic victory in the inaugural Atlantic visit to Miller Motorsports Park last fall.
Rounding out the top five times of the day was Summerton in the No. 19 Genoa Racing entry at 1:37.755 (112.248 mph). Summerton started from the pole and finished third in the season-opener at Sebring and finished second in last year’s race at Miller Motorsports Park.
Top Combined Friday Practice Times
1. Simona De Silvestro, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:37.196, 112.894 mph.
2. John Edwards, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:37.578, 112.452 mph.
3. Frederic Vervisch, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 1:37.578, 112.437 mph.
4. Markus Niemela, No. 1 Newman Wachs Racing, 1:37.626, 112.396 mph.
5. Jonathan Summerton, No. 19 Genoa Racing, 1:37.755, 112.248 mph.
6. Borja Garcia, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 1:38.156, 111.789 mph.
7. Frankie Muniz, No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 1:38.167, 111.777 mph.
8. Tonis Kasemets, No. 18 Genoa Racing, 1:38.676, 111.200 mph.
9. Max Lefevre, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:40.278, 109.424 mph.
10. James Winslow, No. 2 Jensen MotorSport, 1:41.275, 108.347 mph.
11. Michael Mallinen, No. 71 Swan Racing, 1:46.633, 102.902 mph.
12. Michael Nacol, No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, 1:47.131, 102.424 mph.