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.”