ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 11, 2007) – French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport/Everflux/Perfect Nutrition), who has led three of the four on-track sessions for the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda at Road America, left little doubt who had the quickest car in final qualifying for Sunday’s season-ending Generac Grand Prix (ESPN360.com, Live, 12:45 p.m. ET).
Perera threw down a blistering lap at 1:58.883 (122.581 mph) to shatter the day-old track record and claim his second pole position of his rookie season of Atlantic competition. It is the third consecutive and front-row starting spot for the Condor Motorsports driver and his sixth front-row start of the season. Perera is looking to extend his streak of podium results to eight in the Generac Grand Prix and would love to do it by taking his third victory of the season.
Perera’s first victory came after starting from the pole position at Mont-Tremblant in July, and went on to win the following week’s race at Toronto as well. He is also the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top five in every race this season.
By virtue of his provisional pole-winning performance in Friday’s qualifying session, 16-year-old American rookie John Edwards (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) will start second. Edwards claimed the track record on Friday with a lap at 1:59.247 (122.207 mph) and was guaranteed a front-row starting spot, but the youngster could muster only the 13th-quickest time in final qualifying. Nevertheless, it is the best starting spot of Edwards’ Atlantic career, topping a previous best starting position of fifth for Round 2 at Long Beach in April.
Edwards led a sweep of positions 2-6 by American drivers on the Generac Grand Prix starting grid. Starting third will be Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) with a lap at 1:59.048 (122.416 mph). Bomarito is in the midst of a hot streak that began with a second-place performance in Race #2 of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton doubleheader last month. Two weeks ago, Bomarito claimed his first career Atlantic pole position and led every lap en route to a popular victory in the San Jose Grand Prix near his hometown of Monterey, Calif. Bomarito is also the defending Atlantic winner at Road America.
Rookie Carl Skerlong (#24 King Taco/USRT) posted his best qualifying result since taking third on the grid for Race #2 at Edmonton with a fourth-place performance in Generac Grand Prix final qualifying at 1:59.621 (121.825 mph). Skerlong heads into the season finale looking to meet or exceed a previous best race result of second in Round 3 at Houston in April.
Skerlong posted his time on his last lap and knocked Orange, Calif. driver Alan Sciuto (#20 WS Deans/The Room Store) to fifth on the grid. Sciuto logged a best lap at 1:59.720 (121.724 mph) for his best starting spot since a third-place qualifying run for Race #1 in Edmonton. He is looking for his eighth top-nine result of the season in the Generac Grand Prix. His best result of the season to date was fourth in Race #2 at Edmonton.
Adrian Carrio (#17 Carrio Cabling Company) fell one position short of his career-best qualifying position with a sixth-place performance at 1:59.828 (121.614 mph). He got the nod ahead of Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro (#5 Miauton), who posted an identical lap time of 1:59.828 (121.614 mph). The only woman in the Atlantic field will start seventh, as Carrio’s second-fastest lap was quicker than hers.
Canadian rookie Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) will start eighth with a lap at 1:59.899 (121.542 mph), followed by Brazilian Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks) in ninth at 1:59.932 (121.509 mph). Matos clinched the Atlantic title two weeks ago in San Jose. England’s Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI Solutions/Insport) filled out the top 10 at 1:59.996 (121.444 mph).
A couple of perennial front-runners will have to charge from deep in the field in Sunday’s Generac Grand Prix. Toronto native Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) qualified 11th with a lap at 2:00.054 (121.285 mph), while his fellow Canadian, James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) will start 14th. Hinchcliffe’s best lap was 2:00.347 (121.090 mph).
After turning in the 10th-quickest lap in provisional qualifying, rookie Tom Sutherland (#2 ClickAway Computer) slipped five spots to 15th at the end of final qualifying with a lap at 2:00.389 (121.048 mph). Nevertheless, it is Sutherland’s best starting spot since he also qualified 15th at Toronto. His best qualifying result this season was 10th at Houston.
During last night’s CARA Charities Tailgate Party at Road America, series presenting sponsor Cooper Tires donated a helmet signed by the entire 2007 Atlantic field to the silent auction. The helmet, along with tires signed by the drivers who used them, raised more than $1,200.
Quotes from the top-three qualifiers for the Generac Grand Prix follow below:
FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsport/Everflux/Perfect Nutrition) of Condor Motorsports: “In the beginning of the qualifying, I was really concerned that it was possible to get the (bonus) point (for setting the quickest time in the session), but not quicker than John (Edwards) yesterday. It was so windy and the speed was so bad in the straights. In the morning, we tried to improve a lot, and on new tires we were able to be quicker than yesterday. For sure, with different conditions, we could be much quicker. When I saw the time, I was a little bit surprised. Especially, at that point, the gap to the other drivers was huge. In the end, it’s good to be on pole again for the last race here. I have to thank my sponsors, CJ Motorsport, Everflux and Perfect Nutrition for all of their support and also for sure the Condor Motorsports team. They’ve done a great job this season. I’m also ecstatic that my mother and father are here for the race this weekend.”
JOHN EDWARDS (#7 Red Bull/INDECK) of Red Bull Team Forsythe: “We qualified on pole yesterday, so we knew we were starting on the front row for the race, so we tried something to make the car quicker. Unfortunately, as the track temp came up, it ended up being about the same as yesterday as far as the conditions go, so what we tried didn’t work. We were hoping it was going to stay cool like it was about an hour before the session, but the track temps just kept coming up and I wasn’t able to improve my time in the last 10 or 11 minutes. That’s when everyone was going quick. I was okay in the beginning of the session, but just fell off from there, unfortunately. I’m looking forward to the race. Obviously, we’re going to be going back to the car that we had before. We know it’s a strong car in these conditions. We’ll definitely be there fighting for the win.”
JONATHAN BOMARITO (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) of PR1 Motorsports: “It was a good session. We keep getting closer and closer to Franck (Perera) every session. The engineers at PR1 keep making the car better and better. I think we were only about a tenth off the pole today. On my last lap, the in-lap, I was a tenth off the pole but I had traffic down into Turn 5 and completely wasted that lap kind of unnecessarily. But with 24 cars out there, you’re going to hit traffic. It’s just kind of part of the deal. We just needed one more lap, but I’m excited for tomorrow. I started sixth here last year. To be starting third, it’s a long race, a long track and plenty of passing; it’s going to be an exciting one.”