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Lime Rock Coverage:
Day One
Chaves Grabs One Pole As Rain Spoils The Rest

Lime Rock, Conn., July 17 The day started out dry, partly sunny, and a bit on the warm side. Just the way Gabby Chaves (7th in the American Driver Ranking) liked it. Then came the rains, and Chaves along with the American drivers in the Cooper Tires presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda, didn't fare as well.

Tale of Two Qualifying Sessions. Gabby Chaves owned Lime Rock Park in the dry but couldn't quite top the field in the wet during the Formula BMW Americas qualifying on Friday. The American, Columbian dual citizen was fastest in morning practice and fastest in the first qualifying session for pole position in Saturday morning's race. However, Chaves fell to second in the second qualifying session after rain came through the Berkshires. This will still put him on the front row in the afternoon race.

Gabby Chaves in Action Image Gabby Chaves took the FBMW pole for the first race, but will start second in the afternoon race thanks to a wet qualifying session.

Chaves sat fifth in qualifying for the majority of the first session before jumping to the top and then popping a 0:58.044 on his last lap to put a firm hold on the pole, setting a new track qualifying record.

Meanwhile, Chaves' Eurointernational teammate, Michael Lewis, had a tougher time in the first qualifying session. After posting the third fastest time in practice, Lewis was mired in the middle of the field. Until his last lap where he jumped to fifth spot thanks to a 0:58.291 lap time.

"Qualifying was alright," Lewis said. "I made a bit of a mistake early in the stint, but I came back at the end with a great time. If I could have put it together a little earlier, I could have been close to the top. Overall, the ride is still pretty effective, so for the second qualifying session, I think we can put on a good one."

Michael Lewis in Action Image Michael Lewis qualified 5th for the first FBMW race and 6th for the second.

Unfortunately, the rains came just at the tail end of the American Le Mans Series qualifying and continued into the FBMW second qualifying session. Lewis wound up sixth, nearly 12 seconds off his dry lap time.

Meanwhile Chaves also found himself behind the 8-ball early on. He jumped up to second with a 1:09.210 and stayed there throughout the remainder of the session behind Alex Ellis.

For the other two Americans in the 12-car FBMW field, the going was not pleasant. Barrett Mertins spun in Big Bend during the first session and wound up next to last. Robert Garcia qualified last for the first race. In the wet second session, Garcia qualified 10th and Mertins will start last.

Atlantic Ocean. It rained, then it stopped, then it rained. The changing conditions in the Atlantic qualifying session caught the Americans out as the best one could manage was a fifth for John Edwards (ranked 3rd) followed by his teammate, Jonathan Summerton (ranked 2nd).

John Edwards in Action Image John Edwards slogs through the rain to qualify 5th for the Atlantic race.

"It was one of those sessions where nobody stayed P-1 the whole session, and then at the end, I just didn't get a good time in," Edwards said. "Any of us in the top six or seven can run together; I don't think anyone is really dominant."

"We were just unlucky with the timing circumstances," Summerton said. "Everyone's last lap is always their fastest, but mine was cut short due to the way the checkered flag fell. I think we missed it by a second or two. That's just the way things happen sometimes. I'm not making excuses. We just didn't get it done."

Matt Lee, returning to the Atlantic series, qualified ninth. Frankie Muniz looked aggressive in the wet, but could only manage a 10th starting stop.

The weather report for Saturday is dry. At least for now. This is Lime Rock, and unexpected weather changes are the norm. The first Formula BMW race starts first thing in the morning while the second race takes place at lunchtime. The Atlantic race runs just before lunch. Plenty of time span for more changing conditions.

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Copyright © 2009 by Russell Jaslow and American Driver Ranking. All Rights Reserved.

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