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Sato claims pole at new-look Edmonton

23 July 2011

Takuma Sato was thrilled to be on pole position for the second time in four weeks, following up his first IndyCar Series pole at Iowa Speedway by winning the number one spot for the Edmonton Indy on the new-configuration Edmonton City Center Airport street/road course with a best lap time of 1m 18.5165s.

"Absolutely fantastic!" he said afterwards. "My thanks to the team. It is quite challenging to go for the pole; everyone is so close in lap times. The Iowa pole was special for the team, and this one [his first on a street track] means a lot."

Sato's performance throughout all three rounds of qualifying put paid to any doubts that KV Racing technology's recent pace has been anything other than genuine, as he saw off strong challenges from Penske's street king Will Power and the Ganassi duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti who will start side-by-side on the second row of the grid for Sunday's race.

"I have a fast car, I just didn't get it done there in that last session" said Power, whose best time was just 0.0509s off Sato's. "I brushed the wall there and unfortunately affected the car. I think Takuma Sato would have had it regardless because he was so quick anyway, so I give him full credit."

"Unfortunately we just didn't have enough to get the pole," said Dixon for his part. "I that Dario and myself both had it in the car, but it is such a tricky track you lose your speed in the last corner. It is very tough with the heavy braking especially with the tires."

Dario felt that both Ganassi cars hadn't quite nailed the set-up yet. "This track is tricky I don't think that Scott and I are completely happy with our cars yet, so the fact that the Target cars are starting third and fourth is good for us," he said. "If we can fix some of our imbalances for tomorrow we should be in good shape ... There is such a compromise between certain corners on the track and others. It makes it very interesting. It is the same for everyone, I just don't think we have got it figured out as well when it comes to car balance."

"It's a very technical course here," agreed Dixon, who won last year's race at Edmonton, which he also started from third place. "I think if I could have got Turn 11 right then I would have had the pole. I am losing time on that section and we have been trying new things to help improve. Hopefully tomorrow I can try a few different lines and see if that will help out as well."

Further back, the top 12 round saw Ryan Hunter-Reay frustrated to find himself stuck behind Oriol Servia in the final moments, and their ongoing spat saw them both miss out to Ryan Briscoe in progressing to the Firestone Fast Six final round.

"We threw three laps away because we were stuck in traffic," explained an annoyed Hunter-Reay, who will start from seventh. "I felt like it was intentional by Oriol. The sportsman-like thing to do would have been to move over. Before that, we had some good laps there.

Servia didn't see it the same way. "With two minutes to go in qualifying, everybody is trying to put a lap together - I'm trying to put a lap together. I was doing my best. With the sessions being so short, everybody runs at the end. We were both trying to put a lap in with a minute to go.

"I don't know if he wanted me to just disappear and give him a chance to do it and not me," continued Servia, who will line up alongside Hunter-Reay in eighth place for the start of the race tomorrow. "He was the one behind and he had a chance to slow down the lap before to build a gap and then go for it on the next lap. I understand why he isn't happy, he was trying to do a quick lap but I happened to be trying to do my quick lap too. I understand his frustration, I was frustrated too."

Tony Kanaan also didn't make it past round 2, while both his KV Racing team mates did. He admitted that: "We started with a different setup and got lost and eventually got behind schedule with our car." However he was happy it had proved a "productive day" for the team: "Not a very good day for me, but a very good day for the team ... I mean, we put two cars in the fast six and got the pole with Taku!"

Kanaan will start alongside road specialist Sebastien Bourdais. "It was a great thing to make the Firestone Fast 12 again for the third straight race," said Bourdais. "We definitely improved on our times from the morning practice sessions. I think being rained out yesterday hurt us a bit because it took away a full day of practice on this new track configuration."

The new track configuration was widely praised, although a lot of drivers struggled with turn 1 and ran off during the various Saturday sessions. The corner was described as being almost as difficult to manage as the now-notorious turn 3 at Toronto that saw so many collisions two weeks ago; given that it will be the focus for the still-disliked double file restarts, the first turn could make for a lot of fireworks on Sunday afternoon.

"It's a technical circuit and pretty intense," described Ryan Briscoe. "It's not easy to piece together a solid lap; there are bumps and different surfaces. And so much time can be gained by braking late, but it's so easy to mess up the braking zones."

"I wasn't thrilled about coming back here on the old track, but now it's actually fun and you can race this - I'm glad to be here," admitted Vitor Meira, who starts from 14th after missing out on getting through to round 2 by just 0.0616s by a last-gasp flying lap from Bourdais. "It's a much better track and the race will be much better. The fans will see a lot of places to pass, there's a lot of hard braking, it's smooth - there's a few places where it's bumpy and slick, but that's airport/road course tracks so you expect that."

One of the most disappointed drivers was Mike Conway, who has traditionally been strong on road and street courses but had no pace here. "We've definitely got work to do. We're just lacking grip," he said. "The tires just never really felt like they're new tires. It's not good to start that far back in the race. There's just no temperature in the tires, so we were trying to generate the heat. We'll see what we can do tonight and hopefully move up the field tomorrow."

Conway was also frustrated by a full course caution in his group's round 1 session that was triggered by Ana Beatriz stopping out on track. Conway had not set a fast time up to this point after gambling on finding better grip later in the 15 minute session, and did not have time when the course went back to green to get his red-wall soft tyres up to optimum temperature in the cool Canadian weather before the chequered flag came out.

Full starting grid, qualifying and practice times and positions available.


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