In weather conditions that alternated between wet and dry at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Jonathan Summerton scored his second pole position of the 2009 Atlantic Championship ahead of race one of a double-header weekend at the Mazda Formula X presented by Cooper Tyres event.
As the track dried rapidly in the final moments of the 30-minute session, Summerton clocked a best time of 1min 11.417secs in Genoa Racing's #19 Barker Specialty/Geller Group-backed machine on the final lap. It was Summerton's third career pole in Atlantic competition, and maintained his record of qualifying on the front row for every race thus far in 2009.
“From here, I just need to get a decent start,” he admitted, “I've never done a rain start, and it would be interesting, but hopefully it stays dry. The car is pretty good. We've got a little bit of tuning to do but, overall, I'm happy. I think we can win this weekend.
"We came in after we did four laps [early in the session] and we were P2. It was drizzling at the beginning, but it was still a dry track. Then, of course, the rain came and wet the track, so we decided to sit in. Nobody was going quick on rain tyres, so we decided to wait until it was within five seconds a lap. Then, we decided we'd go putter around for a few laps until my engineer came in and said that the track was going quicker and told me to push. That's what I did.”
Joining Summerton on the front row for the second consecutive race will be Simona de Silvestro, who started the race at Miller Motorsports Park last month from the pole. The Team Stargate Worlds driver posted a best qualifying lap of 1min 11.592secs to take second on the grid and heads into Saturday's race looking for her second straight victory.
“It was pretty wild,” de Silvestro commented, “We went out on slicks and we caught traffic on the fast lap we had, and we could have been P1 [early in the session]. Then we put the rain tyres on, and I think we were doing pretty well in the rain so, if it rains tomorrow during the race, we'll be pretty good. At the end, we put slicks on and I went out just behind Summerton.
"I tried to gap myself, but I should have stayed with him, so I would have gotten one more lap on new tyres. I wasn't really sure if I could push it, really, but, once I was in the corner, I was like 'oh, I could have gone through it way faster'. I'm happy, though. The front row is going to be good. I think I can get a good start for the first race and try to pass Summerton. We'll see.”
Qualifying third for the third time in as many Atlantic races was Belgian rookie Frederic Vervisch in the #17 Genoa machine with a best time of 1min 12.098secs. Vervisch heads into Saturday's race hoping to extend his Atlantic career-opening streak of podium finishes to three.
“It didn't look so great this morning, and also early in this session,” he said, “I was sixth or seventh, so I'm quite pleased with third place. I had third place also [at Sebring and Utah] but, here, the track time is so small and it was also difficult, so I'm happy with the performance. Now, I will do a good start and try to win this race.”
Defending series champion Markus Niemela recorded his best starting position of the season to date with a fourth-place performance in the #1 Newman Wachs machine, while Spanish rookie Borja Garcia lines up fifth in the #6 Condor Motorsports entry.