For a driver who didn't have a ride in the 2009 Atlantic Championship until a few days ago, Jonathan Summerton didn't need much time to get back up to speed.

The Florida native got his first series seat time since last October's season finale at Road Atlanta in Tuesday's promoter's test day, and put the #19 Genoa Racing machine on provisional pole for Friday's $50,000 season-opener at Sebring International Raceway.

In a qualifying session that saw the top spot change frequently, Summerton's 1min 53.571secs effort eventually proved sufficient to guarantee a front row starting position for a third consecutive Atlantic event, dating back to last season. He will go for his second career pole in Thursday's final round of qualifying.

"It was fun," Summerton said, "It's a ride-and-a-half out there - when you're going through turn one, it's bumpy as heck. You've got to keep your perfect line and basically make sure you miss the bumps in turn one and turn 17. It's a joy out there. It's like a roller-coaster. We worked hard between sessions. [Crew chief] Geoff Bushor, [team manager] Tom Knapp and Genoa really worked hard. The car was great. I'm sure we still had another two or three tenths out there, easy."

Rookie Frederic Vervisch made it an all-Genoa provisional front row. Participating in the first qualifying session of his Atlantic career, Vervisch clocked a best lap at 1min 53.625secs to wind up second in the session. The 22-year old Belgian heads into the season looking for his third consecutive series championship after dual success in F3 last year.

"It feels really good," Vervisch said, "We struggled a little bit [as a team] this morning, both of us, but I think we did a good job so far. I cannot say there was more in it. We did a change, and I thought it felt better, but then there was the yellow flag.

"Tomorrow is another session, so we can try to improve. It's really good for the team and for everybody to be in front of John [Edwards], who has so many miles here. It's cool. I'm really enjoying this. I never did such a long qualifying. Back in Europe, it's very short, but here you have to drive, drive, drive. You're continuously driving and the car gets better the more you drive, so it's interesting. It's something that suits me also, so I'm happy and enjoying it a lot."

Edwards, who was quickest in Tuesday's promoter test day and also in Wednesday morning's opening practice session, wound up third fastest in provisional qualifying, with a lap of 1min 53.715secs, in the #36 Newman Wachs Racing entry. It was the first Atlantic qualifying session for Edwards since he qualified second for the 2007 season finale at Road America.

"Third is not the worst thing that could happen, but it's not what we wanted after being quickest in the first two sessions," Edwards admitted, "I got in a little traffic in the beginning and should have found a better gap. That got me a little unfocused and I started taking too many mistakes. I sort of found my way there at the end but ran out of time. It's too bad, but hopefully the track will be better tomorrow once more rubber gets laid down, and then we can go for the real pole instead of just the early pole."

Two other rookies took the next two places, with Latvia's Harald Schlegelmilch putting the #21 Conquest Racing entry fourth with a lap of 1min 53.810secs, and Spain's Borja Garcia taking fifth in the #6 CJ Consulting machine for Condor Motorsports at 1min 53.984secs.

The top eight drivers in the session all turned laps within one second of Summerton's provisional pole-winning time, although defending series champion Markus Niemela brought the session to an end three minutes short of its scheduled running time when he spun and stalled in turn seven.

Niemela lost his fastest lap for causing the stoppage, dropping him from fifth to sixth, while, after holding the top spot at one point, Atlantic veteran Jonathan Bomarito wound up seventh for Mathiasen Motorsports entry.

Team Stargate Worlds team-mates Simona de Silvestro and Frankie Muniz were eighth and ninth respectively, ahead of returnee Matt Lee, who completed the top ten for Jensen MotorSport. Another familiar face, veteran Tonis Kasemets was eleventh, ahead of rookies Max Lefevre and James Winslow.

Owner/driver Mirl Swan was the fastest qualifier in the C2 category with a lap of 1min 58.965secs in the #88 Everclear Specialty Lubricants machine for Swan Racing.

Qualifying times - Sebring (18 March):

1. Jonathan Summerton Genoa 1m 53.571s
2. Frederic Vervisch Genoa 1m 53.625s*
3. John Edwards Newman Wachs 1m 53.715s
4. Harald Schlegelmilch Conquest 1m 53.810s*
5. Borja Garcia Condor 1m 53.984s*
6. Markus Niemela Newman Wachs 1m 54.083s
7. Jonathan Bomarito Mathiasen 1m 54.206s
8. Simona de Silvestro Stargate Worlds 1m 54.525s
9. Frankie Muniz Stargate Worlds 1m 54.846s
10. Matt Lee Jensen 1m 54.955s
11. Tonis Kasemets Polestar 1m 55.036s
12. Max Lefevre Condor 1m 56.130s*
13. James Winslow Conquest 1m 56.531s*
14. Mirl Swan Swan 1m 58.965s*#
15. Sadat Yelkin Swan 1m 59.275s*#
16. Ahsen Yelkin Swan 2m 01.430s*#
17. Chris Lee Swan 2m 01.561s*#
18. Michael Nacol Jensen 2m 01.619s*
19. Michael Mallinen Swan 3m 05.027s*

[* denotes rookie; # denotes C2 class runner]

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