Two-time defending Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford driver Sebastien Bourdais established a new track record in route to securing the pole position for Sunday's race in Denver.
"I guess it was difficult to anticipate what the red Bridgestone tires were going to do for us. "Bourdais said following the record setting run. "We were just a lot happier as soon as we took the track with the reds on. Yeah, it just clicked. We just went a little quicker lap after lap. It was pretty much spot-on."
Winner of three races in a row this season, A.J. was the only really challenger for Bourdais, and it now seems that the two will go right down the final event for the championship.
"I think today has been kind of a struggle for us, in practice we were way off the pace." Allmendinger said. "We made some changes. The whole Forsythe Indeck team did a great job to get the car right in qualifying. I was really, really pleased with the first set of tires. We used the Bridgestone blacks. The car was spot-on. I think I could have been even a little bit quicker. Just didn't get everything out of the last lap. Right now we're just struggling a bit on the reds just trying to get an overall balance."
With dark clouds looming near the venue, most teams would need to get on circuit early and establish their best laps. Rain never did come into play but 12 of the 16 entries did make it out in the first few minutes.
Canadian Paul Tracy found clear room early and would erase what had been a horrible first round qualifying when he crashed on Friday. His time of 59.903 would stand for the first few minutes as he diced with Bourdais' teammate Bruno Junqueira for the top spot.
Allmendinger had at least a front row starting position guaranteed from the previous round; the pressure was clearly not on him to take the top spot, however Bourdais seems to thrive on it and it was only a matter of time before the pair would be on track trading hot laps back and forth as they have the past few venues.
Nearly ten minutes elapsed before Tracy, Junqueira and Mario Dominguez would have the pits for some adjustments and rubber. That was the signal for Bourdais and A.J. to start the excitement. All eyes were on the pair and quickly Bourdais climbed the charts.
Wilson was trying desperately to stay in contact with the front-runners at this point, and did a fine job to find open space for his hot lap, which he pulled off at 59.878 (99.623 mph).
"My car was generally getting better as the day went on." Wilson said. "We made some improvements. I felt that we're going the right direction, but unfortunately not quick enough to challenge the two (for pole)."
Allmendinger rolled off a hot lap of 59.350 on his sixth run, and Bourdais did one better on the same lap with a 59.130. Those times would hold until the final lap for Bourdais when he nailed down pole for good. Allmendinger, who had switched to the red tires for his final stint, has to be satisfied with a front row start, but is not happy with the uncertainty of his tires for the race.
"I think obviously there's been -- most of the drivers went a bit quicker. It's our job as a team at Forsythe to figure out why we just keep kind of losing the pace when we put the reds on, since we're going to have to at least run one set tomorrow, figure that out and go from there." commented Allmendinger.
Out of 16 cars that qualified for the event, the six rookies in the filed filled the bottom six positions. Australian Will Power heads that group, and has a comfortable 25-point lead over Englishman Dan Clarke, the pair qualifying 11th and 13th respectively.
Next to Wilson on the second row will be Tracy. Positions five through ten may prove to be the real race tomorrow if it proves similar to the qualifying session. Andrew Ranger vaulted to third on his last stint and will start along side Alex Tagliani. The final four in the top ten consist of Junquiera, Oriol Servia, Dominguez and Nelson Philippe.
This is a critical weekend for the Newman-Haas team as they prepare Bourdais for the final third of the season and a shot at a third straight championship. If it's going to happened, they need to continue to put the pressure on Forsythe with Allmendinger and RuSPORT with Wilson who only need some good racing luck and a couple of DNFs from Bourdais to steal the lead in the drivers championship.
Bourdais put it into perspective for the start tomorrow. "Well, I think no matter where you start the race, it seems like, you know, turn one is always a struggle. There's a little more room in turn one than what it was before, which is now turn five. But still it's very tough, very slippery. It takes like a whole weekend to rubber in the track. As soon as you get guys on the outside, it's very hard. I'm even more happy to be on the pole."