By just 0.047-seconds, that was all the margin that Jon Fogarty needed to take the Montreal pole, the bonus point and regain his one-point edge over Ryan Dalziel in the Toyota Atlantic Championship drivers' standings.
After Dalziel placed his Sierra Sierra car on the provisional pole on Friday, he tied Fogarty in points. The Pacific Coast Motorsports racer answered the challenge in Saturday's final round of qualifying. The two main challengers for the 2004 title will start on the front row as they lead the field into Turn 1 at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve 2.709-mile road course.
Dalziel and Fogarty traded the top spot multiple times during the 30 minute session, much like a game of leapfrog. Dalziel was quickest early before Fogarty answered by leaping over him. The game continued to the checker flag. With just two minutes remaining, Fogarty laid down a lap at 1:32.913 for a speed of 104.963 miles per hour.
"We were fast in practice, fast in qualifying," said Dalziel. We made some changes through the session; they were positive changes and it felt good. We know we have a car that's strong enough to win."
Dalziel answered the challenge on his final lap, only to have the time disallowed due to a shortcut between Turns 14 and 15. The series' rule states that if anyone shortcuts, they lose their fastest lap. Dalziel's second fastest lap in the final qualifying round was timed at 1:32.960 (104.910 mph).
The top two drivers discussed the shortcut penalty: "I'm not sure where the rule came from, for shortcutting the course, but we didn't. We proved we have a good car," commented Dalziel. "I am disappointed for the team."
Fogarty was more outspoken, "I'll reiterate the problems Ryan was dealing with, the same problems I was dealing with as well. (The timing line is where it is and) you have to compensate for it but in reality it's kind of a stupid issue because they've created a racing surface that's safer and quicker to use but they won't allow you to use it because of where the timing line is. You have to point the car straight at the wall to get a time. In the race, they are not going to score it that way."
Danica Patrick took the third spot on the grid with a time at 1:33.376, not quite one-half second adrift of Fogarty. The Rahal Letterman Racing driver currently holds third place in the standings, a position she is determined to keep as she holds two rookies at bay.
"The track just keeps getting better." commented Patrick. "There is a lot more grip out there. That suits our car set up. I really like Montreal. I'm pretty optimistic for tomorrow. We usually have a pretty good race car - a pretty consistent race car."
Ronnie Bremer (Polestar Racing) and Anderew Ranger (Sierra Sierra) will slot sixth and seventh, respectively as the top two rookies not only battle for Rookie of the Year but also for that third step in the final standings.