Jonathan Summerton took another important psychological step in his challenge for the 2009 Atlantic Championship by claiming pole position for this weekend's round at Road Atlanta.
Summerton's achievement saw him take sole possession of top spot in the pole table, with Road Atlanta being his fifth of the season, as he attempts to further close the gap on points leader Simona de Silvestro and second-placed Newman Wachs Racing team-mate John Edwards. Now the F1 prospect is hoping to move to the top of both the race victory and championship point counts in the penultimate race of 2009.
Driving the #34 machine, Summerton posted a best lap of 1min 15.166secs to take another $1000 Cooper Tire Pole Award. More importantly, he earned a bonus point, closing the gap to de Silvestro to eleven points, and that to Edwards to just three.
“I definitely want to win the race,” Summerton said, “and I think we have a very good shot. Consistently, we've been quickest all week, so I'm really happy with the car. We can make some improvements. The temperature made a bit of a difference today with the car. It wasn't spot on what I would like it to be. It was the same for everybody. Really, I'm happy with everything. Hopefully, tomorrow John and I can pull away. The best would be for somebody just to jump in front of Simona for the championship for Laguna.”
Summerton will share the front row with team-mate Edwards, who came out on top in a late-session battle with de Silvestro for second on the grid. Edwards posted a best lap of 1min 15.345secs in the #36 entry, enough for a sixth front row performance in eleven sessions.
“We were comfortably ahead of Simona for most of the session and then, on the second set of tyres, I had a few problems in the first six or seven laps with some oversteer with the new rubber,” he reported, “Finally, they started coming in and I started getting the times down and then Simona put one in on the second to last lap. I was told that she was ahead of me, so I pushed even harder and got her by a couple hundredths at the end. We want pole and we want the win, but the key is to stay ahead of Simona and that's where we are.”
de Silvestro wound up third on the grid in the #78 Team Stargate Worlds car, improving on Thursday's practice session, when she posted the fourth-quickest time. The Swiss driver looks to return to the podium after missing the top-three for just the second time all season in the last race at Mosport last month.
“I'm a little disappointed in this session, because the times are so close,” she said, “We were pushing hard, but we didn't quite feel the second set of tyres were as good as the first. Maybe we lost a little bit of time there, but the gap really shrunk between now and yesterday and the day before yesterday. It took me a little bit of time for me to get back into it after the crash at Mosport, and then we had kind of an engine problem, so I think that took us back because we were trying to figure gears out.
"I'm pretty happy, because. I know we have a really strong racecar, and I have to thank the whole team, because they put the car together really fast. It's really competitive right away, so I'm really proud of them and I think we're going to have a really good race tomorrow.”
Returnee Jonathan Bomarito made it a row two sweep for Team Stargate Worlds with the fourth quickest lap of the session in the #77 car usually piloted by Frankie Muniz, who misses the event after season-ending wrist surgery earlier in the month. Friday's race will be Bomarito's first in Atlantics since the season-opener at Sebring in March.
Rookie of the Year points leader Frederic Vervisch completed the top five in the best of the Genoa Racing entries, slotting in ahead of reigning champion Markus Niemela, veteran Tonis Kasemets and returnee Greg Mansell as the top eight cars were covered by less than one second. Another returnee, James Winslow, was ninth, just ahead of Max Lefevre as only ten cars made it out for the round.