It was a history-making day in qualifying for the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres as Atlantic Championship points leader Simona de Silvestro took pole position with the fastest-ever open wheel lap of the historic street circuit.
de Silvestro's time of 58.662secs in the #78 Team Stargate Worlds entry capped qualifying day at the 40th anniversary running of the event, and was quicker than 58.716secs effort posted by Cristiano da Matta in an Indy Lights machine in 1998 and was also quicker than Jonathan Bomarito's 2008 Atlantic record of 58.989secs.
As if those records weren't enough, the Swiss driver also became the first woman in the history of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres to qualify on the pole position for any class racing at the event. It was the fourth time this season that she has earned the $1000 Cooper Tire Pole Award, and she has gone on to win the three previous events she started from top spot this season. The pole-winning driver at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres has also gone on to win the last ten consecutive Atlantic races at the venue.
“I'm really happy to have pole again because the Newman Wachs boys, the last few weekends, were always a little bit quicker than me in qualifying, so I'm really happy,” de Silvestro said, “Team Stargate Worlds did a great job. We unloaded pretty fast and we tweaked it a little bit here and there and we always went a little bit quicker, so I'm really happy.
"The car feels really good and really consistent, so I hope for tomorrow we can do a good start and drive up front and stay there. The car is great. I really have to thank all the team and my engineer for giving me such a good car every weekend and everybody in the Atlantic series, Cosworth, Mazda and Cooper Tires. It's a great event here in Three Rivers. I'm really excited to be here. It's a little bit weird to come back to a street course because we didn't do any this year, so it was kind of weird, but it's a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.”
Taking second on the grid was John Edwards in the #36 Newman Wachs Racing car. It is the fourth consecutive front-row start for the 18-year old American, who heads into Sunday's race second in the championship standings, now trailing de Silvestro by 17 points.
"It's interesting being in the same team with Jonathan [Summerton],” Edwards said, “We've sort of had opposite weekends until now. I struggled when we came off the trailer and he was quick, and then we went in the right direction and I guess they made some changes in the wrong direction. I was quite happy to be fighting for pole there at the end.
"It's a bit disappointing, as always, when you don't grab pole, but I was really happy that the car was where it is and we've improved on that because, quite frankly, I was very disappointed with fourth this morning in practice. It was really good to fix that and move back up to the front row. It's going to be hard because the straights are very short here. It's going to be hard to pass Simona tomorrow. Hopefully, we just get a good start, settle in and then see if we can get quicker than her, but so far this weekend, she's been right on pace in every session. We'll analyse the car and see if we can make it better for tomorrow and, hopefully, get the win.”
Summerton took third on the grid in the #34 sister machine, the American F1 hopeful claiming an eighth top-three qualifying performance in nine races this season as he looks for a second consecutive victory after winning last time out at Mid-Ohio last weekend.
“It was definitely a hot session,” Summerton reported, “I really don't know where we went with the car. It definitely was not in the right direction. It's very disappointing, actually, to be where we are after being so strong in practice. The guys did a great job on the car, we just made a little bit of a mistake with the set-up. It's going to be a hard race tomorrow, a long race, and very warm, but we're going to do our best. We're going to go back there tonight and figure out what the problem was.”
Markus Niemela, the 2008 Atlantic champion, placed his #1 Jensen MotorSport car fourth on the grid, while rookie Frederic Vervisch completed the top five for Genoa Racing. It was the Belgian rookie's seventh top-five qualifying performance, but there was disappointment for Britain's James Winslow, who saw a top five practice performance translate into ninth on the grid.