CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais clinches Montreal pole

On a track on which he has never won, Champ Car points leader Sebastien Bourdais will start tomorrow's race from a prime position to check the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve off his victory list. Bourdais set pole by over three tenths over A.J.

On a track on which he has never won, Champ Car points leader Sebastien Bourdais will start tomorrow's race from a prime position to check the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve off his victory list. Bourdais set pole by over three tenths over A.J. Allmendinger, with the third member of the championship chase Justin Wilson qualifying 3rd. This is Bourdais' 25th career pole in just his 56th start, and this is Newman/Haas Racing's 100th pole in their illustrious history.

"I guess I'm really part of the family now because, obviously, to be part of a quarter of all the poles that the team has achieved is quite something in only four years," Bourdais said. "It just shows how good this group has become over the years. I take my hat off to these boys because, you know, they made it happen. I'm not alone in the car. A good driver without a good car can't do anything. I rely a lot on these boys, so it's a great feeling."

While Bourdais' path to provisional pole on Friday was a remarkable one, he cruised relatively uneventfully to his seventh pole of the season and fourth consecutive. However, he has only parlayed one of those into a victory and with the competition hot on his heels, the Frenchman will be looking to finish P1.

Nelson Philippe set the early pace, at an even 1 minute, 22 seconds. Local hero Andrew Ranger, donning an attractive new Wal-Mart paint scheme for this event, moved to the top of the time sheets shortly thereafter at 1:21.627. Neither of them improved much over the rest of the session and will start midfield.

From there Allmendinger, who failed to set a time on Friday due to an engine failure (a rare one for the bullet-proof Cosworth), laid down a flyer at 1:20.505, a full 1.1 seconds quicker than Ranger. The time held for a while and Allmendinger was on a quicker lap, but pitted with unsatisfactory balance. Both he and teammate Paul Tracy commented about a lack of balance on the softer Bridgestone red sidewall tires. "I really flat spotted part of the tire on the third lap," Allmendinger noted. "From there it was hard to drive. I just knew I needed to get a decent lap in to just have something to fall back on."

Admittedly, since Bourdais had run a 1:21.6 on Friday and the times were dropping, the writing was on the wall that he would go quicker. And he did, on his seventh lap, running a 1:20.345. He ran two quicker laps the rest of the session, capping it off with a 1:20.005 on his final one, to secure the top spot.

Behind the title-chasing triumvirate was Tracy in fourth, and defending Montreal race winner Oriol Servia. Tracy enters Montreal as a marked man, despite his Canadian heritage. He has gotten into two well-documented contretemps the last two events with Bourdais and Alex Tagliani. Bourdais even joked in the post-qualifying press conference that Allmendinger would be counting on his teammate to take him out.

The rest of the top ten is completed by Bruno Junqueira, rookies Will Power and Dan Clarke, Ranger and Philippe. Tagliani starts a disappointing 12th and Antonio Pizzonia, in his first start since Long Beach, lines up 13th.

Something to watch for on Sunday is how everyone from fourth on back fares. Entering this race, Philippe and Mario Dominguez are tied for fourth in points with 149, and 12th-placed Tagliani has 131. The top ten from fourth to tenth is separated by just nine markers. So there should be a large amount of jockeying in the standings.

However, with both points from qualifying, Bourdais is hoping there will be no movement from his leading position. "Well, I guess we've had three really bad races here," he said. "Hopefully the bad series is behind us and we can hope for something different tomorrow."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Gilles Villeneuve , A.J. Allmendinger , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Will Power , Dan Clarke