JR Hildebrand claimed another pole position in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season, his fourth of the season, by posting the fastest time of the day in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Edmonton.
Hildebrand, the current championship leader, posted a 1min 05.9065secs lap with four minutes remaining in the session to leave his rivals half a second adrift and set himself up for a third successive podium finish after first and second places at Watkins Glen and Toronto respectively.
"The car was just really good right from the get-go," the AFS/Andretti Green driver reported, "Last weekend, we had a little bit of trouble trying to make too many changes for the qualifying session, and I think it just kind of got us behind. Today, we just kind of stuck with the gameplan, went out there and went quick."
Hildebrand will be joined on the front row by Richard Philippe, who posted his best ever Indy Lights qualifying position in his third outing with Team PBIR. Like the polewinner, Philippe is one of four drivers with previous Edmonton experience, and made full use of it.
"It's a nice feeling," the Frenchman admitted, "We've come a long way as a team and, although we struggled a little bit in the second part of the first session this morning, we got it just right for now. We're definitely not matching JR's pace, but I've got to thank the Palm Beach International Raceway boys and the Palm Beach Driving Club for making this possible for me."
Unsurprisingly, given the quirky nature of the airport circuit, previous visitors James Davison and James Hinchcliffe locked out row two, with the Australian edging his Canadian rival for the inside line. Hinchcliffe, however, has won two pole positions at the venue, and has also finished on the podium three times.
"I guess I'm disappointed because we didn't go quicker on our second set of tyres when we really needed to," Vision Racing's Davison reflected, "On our first set, we matched Hildebrand and, on our second tyre run, I didn't have a good enough run and had it interrupted. I'm somewhat disappointed with a third place starting position, but I'm looking forward to the race because that's what really matters. We started third in Toronto and put on a really good performance, so we'll be looking to do the same here in Edmonton and try for a win. We'll make a few adjustments to the car tonight to try to close the gap between us and the leader."
Toronto racewinner Sebastian Saavedra will line up on the inside of row three, with Team PBIR's Charlie Kimball alongside, while Mario Romancini, Andrew Prendeville, Daniel Herrington and Ana Beatriz round out he top ten ahead of the 50-lap race on the 1.96-mile, 14-turn circuit.
"This is my first time racing here in Edmonton, so I spent some time getting used to the layout of the track," Herrington reported, "The track is quite fast and bumpy but, after Toronto's bumps, these don't seem too bad. Qualifying ninth isn't exactly where we want to be, but we struggled with some rear grip issues. We got them somewhat sorted out by the end of qualifying, but it was a bit too late. Our biggest concern now is to be sure that we have a consistent car for the race. We'll try a few things in warm up and see if we can't move our way into the top five in the race."
Former series champion Wade Cunningham was only twelfth fastest in the 16-car field, behind Ali Jackson, but ahead of Martin Plowman, Gustavo Yacaman, Pippa Mann and Rodrigo Barbosa.