Scotland's Ryan Dalziel threw down a blistering lap of 47.895secs - a speed that would have placed him 16th on the provisional Champ Car grid - to claim the provisional pole position for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k in Miami.

As a result of his performance, the Scot has guaranteed himself a front row starting position and, perhaps more importantly, moved him a step closer to clinching second place in the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Championship. Dalziel has already earned his best starting position since taking the pole position for round five at Portland - a
race he went on to win - and, if he maintains his position in Saturday's final round of qualifying, would claim his fourth career pole.

"I think we're pretty happy with the result we had today," he said, "Sierra Sierra have worked really hard the past couple of races. We've kind of plateaued since mid-season, and it's been a tough couple of races for us. We tested midweek at Sebring, however, and I think that was a really beneficial for us, because I think we learned some stuff. We had a couple of problems on the car that we seemed to have gotten rid of.

"Right out of the truck this morning, the car was awesome. We worked on it between now and then, and I think we've definitely made gains. It's easy to say, but I'm pretty sure we can find a little more time in the car. The car is not perfect, but we're going in the right direction. I think this track really separates the men from the boys,
it's probably the toughest street circuit we've driven on. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I think we can make gains, and hopefully we can go for the pole and have a good race."

A familiar face was in the second spot at the end of provisional qualifying, as Canadian Michael Valiante was the day's runner-up with a best lap of 47.946secs. The Canadian has started second in each of the last two races, and qualified inside the top five in the past seven consecutive races. Topped by his second win of the season in round nine at Mid-Ohio, Valiante has not failed to finish outside the top four in any of those events, and remains Dalziel's biggest rival for the overall runners-up spot.

"The biggest thing that changed from this morning is that it's just so much hotter," the Canadian reported, "The tyres seemed to go away a little bit quicker. With the track being so short, it's a challenge to get a clear lap because you're constantly coming up on lapped traffic, so that was a little bit tough. I think everybody will say that one of their fastest lap was slowed down by lapped traffic.

"Other than that, the car was good in the first session. When the times are so close like this, everyone has a shot at the pole. We just need a little bit for the pole tomorrow, and we're looking forward to it."

New Toyota Atlantic champion AJ Allmendinger occupies the third spot on the provisional grid, after turning in a best lap of 47.949secs, and, having not failed to qualify outside the top three in any of his eleven Toyota Atlantic starts this year, goes into final qualifying within striking distance of the pole. If he is able to take the top spot on Saturday, it will be his ninth of the season and will tie him with the legendary Gilles Villeneuve for the most poles for a driver in a single season.

"It's definitely a tough track because it's so short," the Californian admitted, "For how hot it is out here, you don't get much time to rest.

"The session went very well. From practice, we had a little bit of work on it, and we made gains. There's still more gains to be made for tomorrow's session. I think I still have a chance for pole, and, coming down, I guess it's the tight section down in the set of last corners. I didn't like how close the wall was to the track, so I tried to move it. It didn't move and, for that reason, I thought I hit the right front. I tried to balance it out with the left rear coming out of the corner, and I hit the outside wall, and that one didn't move either. That pretty much ruined my good lap, and then I got traffic on my last lap.

"Overall, I think it was good, I think we had a shot at the pole. That was my good lap. We need to make progress on it tomorrow, and I think we have a direction, so I think it's going to be good. Congrats to Ryan on today, but we'll go chase him tomorrow."

Qualifying fourth was Team Rahal rookie Danica Patrick, who turned in a top time of 46.678secs. If she is able to maintain her position after Saturday's final qualifying session, it would equal her career best qualifying performance in Atlantics, as she also qualified fourth at Trois-Rivieres early last month. It would also be the third time in her past five starts that she has qualified inside the top five.

Filling out the top five on the time chart was Aaron Justus, with a best lap of 48.773secs. Justus enters final qualifying looking to extend his streak of top five qualifying performances to seven consecutive races, and he has started inside the top four in each of the past three events. He is also looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic
victory.

Qualifying sixth was Mexican Luis Diaz, followed by Joey Hand in seventh. Eighth quickest on the provisional grid was Jonathan Macri, who will be looking to complete a record by finishing every race lap of the season on Sunday, who lines up, temporarily at least, ahead of rookie Marc Breuers, who turned in the best qualifying
performance of his young Toyota Atlantic career. After turning in the third quickest time in the opening practice session earlier in the day, 2002 champion Jon Fogarty lost seven spots in qualifying and is currently tenth on the grid.

The only crash of qualifying came midway through the session when Kyle Krisiloff slid sideways into the tyre barriers at the exit of turn one. Krisiloff was not injured in the accident, but the car sustained suspension damage to its right side and was unable to continue for the remainder of the session.

Leading qualifiers - Miami:

1. Ryan Dalziel 47.895secs
2. Michael Valiante 47.946secs
3. AJ Allmendinger 47.949secs
4. Danica Patrick 48.678secs
5. Aaron Justus 48.773secs
6. Luis Diaz 48.911secs
7. Joey Hand 49.030secs
8. Jonathan Macri 49.157secs
9. Marc Breuers 49.461secs
10. Jon Fogarty 49.506secs
11. Alex Garcia 49.936secs
12. Alex Figge 50.103secs
13. Kyle Krisiloff 50.470secs
14. Philip Fayer 51.104secs
15. Eric Jensen 51.334secs

 

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