John Edwards earned the first pole position of his Atlantic career in qualifying for race one of this weekend's Atlantic Championship double-header at the Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix presented by Mazda.
Driving the #36 for locally-based Newman Wachs Racing, Edwards posted a best lap at 2min 04.600secs around the 3.56-mile, 21-turn, permanent road circuit, which makes its debut on the Atlantic schedule this weekend. The 18-year old was nearly half a second quicker than his next closest competitor, points leader Simona de Silvestro, and he heads into Saturday's race looking for his second career Atlantic win.
“It's not only my first pole, it's pole by half a second,” Edwards enthused, “I can't say enough. The only word I could say when I came in the pits was 'awesome' - I told the guys 'you guys are awesome!'. The car was awesome. The whole session just played out exactly how we had planned and how we had hoped. I mean, I was the only one in the 2min 04s for the whole session, and I got there quickly and could stay there longer than anyone could. We're really looking forward to second qualifying and both races this weekend.”
Starting from the outside of the front row will be de Silvestro, who turned a best lap at 2min 05.092secs in the #78 Team Stargate Worlds entry. It is the fifth consecutive time that de Silvestro has qualified on the front row and, on a roll, she has won three of the last four races to take over the points lead heading into Saturday's sixth round of twelve.
“The first qualifying was really hard,” de Silvestro admitted, “Edwards is going really fast and pretty consistent. We made some changes from practice to qualifying and it's a little bit better, but we still have a little bit to find. It's really hard to put a lap together. It was a pretty tough session but I'm happy with starting P2, because I think it's pretty easy for somebody to do a mistake. Maybe we can get a chance to pass in the race. Most importantly is to start on the front row. It's always great, especially on this kind of track where I'm not really used to it. It's kind of new, so I'm really happy with that ending.”
Jonathan Summerton made it two Newman Wachs Racing cars in the top three, posting a best lap at 2min 05.594secs in the #34 car. Summerton has won one race in each of the last three Atlantic double-headers, and will be looking to renew his title push at Autobahn.
“It went all right,” he reported, “We definitely made an improvement. We just can't figure out what we have different and what's going on with the car. We're going to check all the dampers and check everything, because we're on the same set-up as John and I have totally different problems. We'll see. We'll work through it tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow we can bring a fight. Starting third, I think, with John being in front, we can possibly work together to get 1-2 in the race.”
Local favourite Tonis Kasemets, who makes his home in nearby Mundelein, turned in his best qualifying performance of the season with a fourth-place run in the #35 Fatburner car for Polestar Motor Racing, while rookie of the year leader Frederic Vervisch completed the top five for Genoa Racing.
The Belgian has qualified inside the top five for every race this season and will line up alongside reigning champion Markus Niemela on row three after the Finn wrung the best out of Jensen MotorSport's leading car.
Borja Garcia, Frankie Muniz, James Winslow, Max Lefevre and Michael Nacol rounded out the eleven-car field.