Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay has gone one better than his efforts in the last four years by claiming pole position at the Verizon IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Starting in second in 2010, 2012 and 2013 the DHL backed driver rattled in a lap of 1:07.822 in the Firestone Fast Six section of qualifying to ensure he went one better than his previous efforts – relegating James Hinchcliffe into second.
“What a qualifying session! You never knew who was going to put in the best lap; it was anybody’s session. It’s a good start for us, but tomorrow is going to be challenging. We have the standing start and a long day on the beach. We’ve been on the outside pole so many times here and final got the big one,” stated Hunter-Reay after qualifying.
Indeed in the last stage of qualifying the six drivers hoping for Verizon P1 success were from five different teams – a sign of how competitive the entire field is – Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was third, Josef Newgarden was fourth and rapid rookie Jack Hawksworth was fifth. Rounding out the top six is Simon Pagenaud who set a time of 1:08.073 with a split of only 0.2 seconds separating first from sixth.
One man definitely not soaking up the beachside fun was Graham Rahal in the National Guard Honda, he’ll start dead last after really struggling with the set up of his car: “We tried to make more changes to get the balance in the car better and then tried some bigger ones for qualifying. We are just struggling with overall grip. Oriol Servia had a big grip gain on alternate tires and I didn’t feel it. We have a lot of work to do. From being second here last year and being fast, the where we are now is a mystery. Oriol did a great job. We will look at what they have done to their car and try to improve ours. Tomorrow we can try alternate strategy, pit early and see how far forward we can go.”
Also struggling with his Dallara IndyCar was pole sitter from St Petersburg, Takuma Sato – he will start 15th on the grid: “We made progress over the two days but just not enough. It’s quite a mixture of a grid so whether it was conditions or not, I don’t know. We tried our best but not going through the Q-1 qualifying round was disappointing. We shall work hard for final practice and hopefully we will have a strong package for the race.”
The second round of the Verizon IndyCar Series takes place tonight at 11pm UK time with Hunter-Reay hoping that pole position can turn into a win.