The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford opened the 2006 season today under sunny skies at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Defending race winner and two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais took the opening round of qualifying with a time of 107:675 (104.689 mph), followed closely in second by teammate Bruno Junqueira's 1:07.741 (104.581 mph).
Bourdais, driving for Newman Haas Racing in one of three entries this season, continued where he left off last year by taking P1 not only in provisional qualifying, but also in both the morning and afternoon practice sessions.
"The track may have been as good as it's ever been here."Bourdais said."And the Bridgestone Potenza's (tires) worked very well for me.I've never been fast in the first session in Long Beach so this is new to me.We may be able to get into the 1:06 range tomorrow if we keep improving."
Junqueira was out of racing for nearly a full season after his shunt with A.J. Foyt IV during last year's Indy 500, and made a strong return to Champ Car with his qualifying effort.
"It feels great to be back here and to have found some speed on the first day," Junqueira said following qualifying."The changes to Turn One made the corner a lot faster but it may have taken a passing opportunity away because the braking zone is a bit shorter now."
Four-time Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Paul Tracy took the third fastest time at 107:947 (104.270 mph) for Forsythe Racing.Mario Domingo running in the second Forsythe entry wound up eleventh.
PKV Racing's Katherine Legge, the first female to compete in the series since Lyn St. James in 1995, stopped the clocks at 1:09.747 (101.579 mph).Legge's best time places her fifteenth in a field of 18 drivers.
One of six rookies in the series this season, Legge qualified fourth in the group behind rookie Will Power from Australia who finished first amongst the rookies and seventh overall ahead of 2002 series champ Christiano da Matta.Power competed in two Champ Car World Series events last year with a best finish of tenth at Mexico City.
California native A.J. Almendinger and Englishman Justin Wilson finished up fourth and sixth respectively as teammates for RuSport Racing.Wilson has a fifth place finish to his credit in two Grand Prix of Long Beach starts.
Round two qualifying takes place on Saturday.By virtue of his top spot today, Bourdais earns one championship point and is guaranteed a front row starting position for Sunday's race.