SALVADOR DURAN/A1Team Mexico is on pole for Sundays' A1GP Sprint race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the fastest lap - 1:15.189. The 20-year old was fastest in only one session - the last, and he pulled it off in the last few moments. He said "I have the car for sure and I have the best team in the series. In the race I just have to be smart, consistent, not make any mistakes and be fast."

Points leader NICOLAS LAPIERRE/A1Team France was second with a best time of 1:15.384. Lapierre, 22, had been fastest for most of the afternoon, and only lost it when pipped by Duran. He admitted he made a mistake on the last corner, which cost him the pole, which was disappointing. "We're here to win the championship, but as a driver I want to win in every race." Lapierre is very competitive. At least twice he was reported for being over protective of his racing line, but in the end the Stewards determined it was 'just racing' and no judicial action was taken.

Lapierre's Sunday task became easier after Qualifying when the second-segment Qualifying time of closest rival, GIORGIO MONDINI/A1Team Switzerland, was disallowed for "failure to comply with weighing procedures" causing him to move back to sixteenth on the starting grid. Switzerland is the only team with a mathematical chance of overtaking France for the Championship.

Third fastest was MATT HALLIDAY/A1Team New Zealand at 1:15.773. This is his second time racing at Laguna Seca. He quipped that the last time was so long ago he couldn't find the track this time. In 2001 Halliday ran in the last season of the Indy Lights Series. But Halliday thinks set-ups are more important than track knowledge. With A1GP, all teams are one-car teams, with no one with which to share data.

ALEX YOONG/A1Team Malaysia and ROBBIE KERR/A1Team Great Britain were fourth and fifth fastest.

Those three teams-New Zealand, Malaysia, and Great Britain are all going for position. Great Britain hopes to stay in third place ahead of Brazil, New Zealand hopes to pass Netherlands and Malaysia wants fifth, especially to show some disbelieving journos.

The North American drivers didn't qualify as well as some hoped. GRAHAM RAHAL/A1Team Lebanon qualified eleventh-the best ever for the team; BRYAN HERTA/A1Team USA will start seventeenth; with PATRICK CARPENTIER/A1Team Canada in eighteenth place.

Qualifying was sunny and cold. Off in the distance could be seen the Salinas Alps, all covered with snow.

RYAN BRISCOE/A1Team Australia was the first car on course but he didn't set a time as he drove off way wide in Turn Five. He did a great job of keeping it under control, not hitting anything and getting back on track. The lap was aborted, and he was only one not to record a time in the first session.

The format calls for each driver allowed one flying lap per 15-minute Qualifying session, with the best two-lap Aggregate Time prevailing. Each driver must run at least two of the four sessions, and can run all four sessions.

A1Team China was the only team to change drivers this weekend. TENJYI JIANG qualified last, running three of the four sessions. QINGHUA MA drove in the second Friday Practice.

RALPH FIRMAN/A1Team Ireland was the only other driver to skip a session. He scrapped the third run.

A1Team Japan was not present this weekend, perhaps because of the horrific barrel-roll crash in Mexico by HAYANARI SHIMODA, which destroyed the car. Shimoda, an aspiring stunt driver, was not injured.

A1Team Pakistan is back after a brief hiatus.

The fastest ever race lap on the present 2.238-mile track configuration was set by HELIO CASTRONEVES in the 2001 CART race - 1:07.722/118.969 mph. The current layout is the third configuration on the famed Laguna Seca track. All three of the Laguna Qualifying track records were set by CART drivers. The original track was 1.9-miles, from 1957-1985, and that record - 0.52.926/129.237 mph - was set by MARIO ANDRETTI. The second configuration was 2.24-miles from 1986-1994, and that track record was set by JACQUES VILLENEUVE-1:09.625/114.476 mph.

Due to Saturday's delayed/revised schedule, A1GP lost its third Practice session. The two support races, Skip Barber National Series Presented by RACER Magazine and the United States Touring Car Championship also lost time.

A1GP had the last laugh, weather-wise. Rain was forecast for all weekend, and Saturday's weather prognostication called for Thundershowers all day. But it was dry and mostly sunny all day. It warmed up to 48F/8.9C degrees Saturday afternoon for Qualifying. All around the circuit were evidences of the unprecedented snow storm. Monterey is at sea level. The elevated historic road course is set on the grounds of the former US Army base, Fort Ord and is not quite that low. The highest point at the track is the top of the Corkscrew at 929 feet, and the lowest point is 749 feet at Turn Three.

A1Team Netherlands' snowman was but a chilly puddle by qualifying.

 

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