CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais gains point back, front row for NHR

CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais gains point back, front row for NHR

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais set a new track record and moved one step closer to the Champ Car World Series title today when he claimed pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Mexico. Sébastien Bourdais. Photo by Bridgestone -...

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais set a new track record and moved one step closer to the Champ Car World Series title today when he claimed pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Mexico.

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Bridgestone - Dennis Ashlock.
Bourdais' best lap of 1:25.919 (116.733 mph) is the fastest single lap at Mexico City's 2.786-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in the third running of the Champ Car meeting, eclipsing the mark of 1:25.941 set by teammate Bruno Junqueira in 2002 during the inaugural event.

"Well, I feel good, but I know there's still a long way to go." Bourdais said after the run. "The hardest part of the season is in front of us and there's definitely going to be braking going into turn one tomorrow on the first lap. So we'll just see tomorrow, but definitely two very good runs, and today with an alternate set of tires that Bridgestone has been bringing, and I'm very happy with the car."

On the outside of row one will be the same man who's mark he just surpassed, Junqueira, his un-official rival and sparing partner at Newman/Haas. Junqueira has been on the podium before in Mexico City but must now push for the top step.

"I didn't talk about strategy after (qualifying) with my engineers, but we know we have to try to win the race, and that's what we're going to try to do", Junqueira said when asked about his approach.

"If I need to go as fast as I can or stay still, I don't know how the race will play out. Probably have to stay still early on and then push hard in the end. I don't know how it's going to play out yet."

Having set fastest time in Friday's provisional round of qualifying, Junqueira maintains his guaranteed position on the front row, with the second quickest time overall at 1:26.545 (115.889 mph). The point he earned had brought him to within 21 of the championship lead, however that has now been erased by Bourdais accomplishment.

Junqueira knows he has to go for the win, and hope that Bourdais has some type of problem during the event. Nothing short of a victory for the Brazilian and a finish out of the points for Bourdais will secure this result.

"Looks like this year we found a good setup and I hope we can have a good race. It's a long race tomorrow. The championship on the line. A lot of things can happen. I'm confident that I'm going to have a really good car."

Qualifying third on the inside of row two is Champ Car rookie Justin Wilson. A veteran of European formula racing, Wilson had his best qualifying effort of the year with a flyer of 127:016 (115.262 mph).

Justin Wilson.
Photo by Ford Motor Company.
"I'm pretty happy," said Wilson. "We've been making progress all weekend, then in the warm-up session before qualifying, we were a long way off, and getting a bit concerned that we changed the setup only very slightly, but lost our way. Fortunately, we changed it back and the car worked well again and we were able to go out and set a time. "We just keep playing it nice and cool and are taking small steps at a time."

The highest placing American was Jimmy Vasser who found some speed overnight and improved his time to mark the fourth quickest lap. It has been two years since he last tasted victory, and the former champion could be a factor in tomorrows race.

"It paid off for us today after holding back the two sets of alternate tires yesterday," said Vasser. "We made a lot of changes in between our two stints - probably the most we've made all season long. We'll be starting in the second row, so the Gulfstream car is within striking distance for the race. We just need to focus on the job at hand and get the result we need to finish the season in the top 10 in points."

Oriol Servia continued his late-season recovery, with another fine qualifying effort. He'll start in fifth along side defending Mexico City champion Paul Tracy.

Tracy is currently trailing Forsythe teammate Patrick Carpentier by just four points for third in the championship, and had this to say about his effort. "We were just not able to achieve the same car as we had last year. We have been struggling to find the grip so far, but I think we have a good direction now and we should be good for the race tomorrow."

The table has been set and the patrons are hungry. Sunday there will be a new Champ Car World Series champion crowned. The fight has yet to take place but we're assured a exciting race with two men; two teammates climbing to that last rung. The racing world sits on the edge of it's collective seat.

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Series INDYCAR