De Silvestro Turns Fastest Open-Wheel Lap in Trois-Rivières History It was a history-making day in qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières as 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda points leader Simona De Silvestro took the pole position with a lap at 58.662 seconds (93.280 mph).
De Silvestro’s lap in the No. 78 Stargate Worlds/Maakoa/Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment/FireSky/Cardinal Technologies machine for Team Stargate Worlds was the fastest ever turned by an open wheel car on the 1.52-mile street circuit, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend. The lap was quicker than a lap of 58.716 second turned by Cristiano da Matta in an Indy Lights machine at Trois-Rivières in 1998 and was also quicker than Jonathan Bomarito’s 2008 Atlantic record of 58.989 seconds.
As if those records weren’t enough, De Silvestro also became the first woman in the history of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières to qualify on the pole position for any class racing at the event. It was the fourth time this season that De Silvestro has earned the $1,000 Cooper Tire Pole Award and she has gone on to win the three previous events she started from the pole this season. The pole-winning driver at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières has gone on to win the last 10 consecutive Atlantic races at the venue.
“I’m really happy to have pole again because the Newman Wachs boys, the last few weekends, were always a little bit quicker than me in qualifying, so I’m really happy,” De Silvestro said. “Team Stargate Worlds did a great job. We unloaded pretty fast and we tweaked it a little bit here and there and we always went a little bit quicker, so I’m really happy. The car feels really good and really consistent so I hope for tomorrow we can do a good start and drive up front and stay there. The car is great. I really have to thank all the team and my engineer for giving me such a good car every weekend and everybody in the Atlantic series, Cosworth, Mazda and Cooper Tires. It’s a great event here in Three Rivers. I’m really excited to be here. It’s a little bit weird to come back to a street course because we didn’t do any this year, so it was kind of weird, but it’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.”
Taking second on the grid was John Edwards in the No. 36 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/NEI/Entergy entry from Newman Wachs Racing at 58.832 seconds (93.011 mph). It is the fourth consecutive front-row starting spot for the 18-year-old American. He heads into Sunday’s race second in the championship standings, now trailing De Silvestro by 17 points, 136-119.
It’s interesting being in the same team with Jonathan (Summerton),” Edwards said. “We’ve sort of had opposite weekends until now. I struggled when we came off the trailer and he was quick and then we went in the right direction and I guess they made some changes in the wrong direction. I was quite happy to be fighting for pole there at the end. It’s a bit disappointing, as always, when you don’t grab pole, but I was really happy that the car was where it is and we’ve improved on that because, quite frankly, I was very disappointed with fourth this morning in practice. It was really good to fix that and move back up to the front row. It’s going to be hard because the straights are very short here. It’s going to be hard to pass Simona tomorrow. Hopefully we just get a good start, settle in and then see if we can get quicker than her, but so far this weekend, she’s been right on pace in every session. We’ll analyze the car and see if we can make it better for tomorrow and hopefully get the win.”
Summerton took third on the grid in the No. 34 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy/NEI machine at 58.872 seconds (92.947 mph). It is the eighth top-three qualifying performance in nine races this season for the American Formula 1 hopeful. He is looking for his second consecutive victory after winning last time out at Mid-Ohio last weekend.
“It was definitely a hot session,” Summerton said. “I really don’t know where we went with the car. It definitely was not in the right direction. It’s very disappointing, actually, to be where we are after being so strong in practice. The guys did a great job on the car; we just made a little bit of a mistake with the setup. It’s going to be a hard race tomorrow, a long race, and very warm, but we’re going to do our best. We’re going to go back there tonight and figure out what the problem was.”
Markus Niemela, the 2008 Atlantic champion, placed his No. 1 Ville de Trois-Rivières/Jensen MotorSport ride fourth on the grid with a lap at 59.038 seconds (92.686 mph). It was Niemela’s sixth top-five qualifying effort of the season. Rookie Frederic Vervisch completed the top five with a lap at 59.088 seconds (92.608 mph) in the No. 17 Quartier/Isomo/Shinokki machine for Genoa Racing. It was the Belgian rookie’s seventh top-five qualifying performance.
Qualifying results for Round 9 of 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, with starting position, driver, hometown or country, car number, team, time and speed in mph:
1. Simona De Silvestro, Switzerland, No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds, 58.662 seconds, 93.280 mph.
2. John Edwards, Cincinnati, Ohio, No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing, 58.832 seconds, 93.011 mph.
3. Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla., No. 34 Newman Wachs Racing, 58.872 seconds, 92.947 mph.
4. Markus Niemela, Finland, No. 1 Jensen MotorSport, 59.038 seconds, 92.686 mph.
5. Frederic Vervisch (R), Belgium, No. 17 Genoa Racing, 59.088 seconds, 92.608 mph.
6. Tonis Kasemets, Estonia, No. 35 Polestar Motor Racing, 59.158 seconds, 92.498 mph.
7. Borja Garcia (R), Spain, No. 6 Condor Motorsports, 59.304 seconds, 92.270 mph.
8. Frankie Muniz, Scottsdale, Ariz., No. 77 Team Stargate Worlds, 59.500 seconds, 91.966 mph.
9. James Winslow (R), United Kingdom, No. 18 Genoa Racing, 1:00.118, 91.021 mph.
10. Max Lefevre (R), France, No. 7 Condor Motorsports, 1:00.928, 89.811 mph.
11. Eric Jensen, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, No. 3 Jensen MotorSport, no time, no speed.
(R) Series Rookie