Sebastien Bourdais, with a fast lap of 1:31.718 seconds (109.706 mph) in Newman/Haas Racing's Lola, won the pole today for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 on the Surfers Paradise street circuit in Queensland, Australia. This was the fifth pole of the 2003 Champ Car season for the fast Frenchman, another highlight in a year that has already earned him the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year trophy.
What that means for Tracy, who qualified the PF Racing Lola 3rd today at a time less than one-hundredth of a second slower than Junqueira, is that a finish of 3rd or better in the Surfers race can clinch for him his first CART championship after thirteen seasons of trying.
When that photo was taken, Michel Jourdain Jr. was a contender for that cup, but to win it he needed every available point left in the season, and he needed Tracy to score zero points over the two race stretch. When he didn't get the point today, his faint chance was gone. Jourdain has struggled to find a fast lap in the Team Rahal Lola this weekend and will start from 9th position on the grid.
Behind Bourdais and the two remaining title contenders, Alex Tagliani and Adrian Fernandez both continued their good weekends. Tagliani was second fastest in the Friday provisional qualifying session, but was stripped of his times when his Rocketsports Lola didn't make the minimum weight after the session. Despite that setback, he continued his speedy ways on the fast street course and qualified 4th today.
Oriol Servia will line up beside Fernandez on the grid, the Spaniard needing a good finish to break a disappointing stretch of sub-par races. Servia's Patrick Racing Lola was fastest in the short pre-qualifying warm-up practice, and he improved two positions today over his Friday qualifying run.
Herdez Racing teammates Roberto Moreno and Mario Dominguez will share row four tomorrow. Moreno equaled his qualifying position from Friday, and may have had the chance to improve today, but spoiled his run on his second set of tires with a spin. Dominguez, the winner here last year in one of the most bizarre Champ Car races ever, has struggled to find competitive speed all weekend, and had his best session at the right time.
Starting tenth will be Mika Salo in only his fourth Champ Car race for PK Racing. The Formula 1 veteran has been improving with every race and has turned around the rookie team that had struggled with its three previous pilots. He has made methodical progress this weekend, moving up the time sheet each session.
Patrick Carpentier, PF Racing's second driver, has been unable to approach his teammate's pace and qualified 11th. Carpentier is counting on setup help from Tracy and a typical Surfers race to help him tomorrow, commenting: "We'll take a look at Paul's set up for the race and work from there. The good thing is that with this track and race, anything can happen and usually does. In the past few races I have worked my way from a weak starting position to finish strongly. I'll be looking to do that in this race."
Tiago Monteiro, in the backup Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing car after a crash in the morning practice, was 13th. Walker Racing's Darren Manning was in 14th, and he detailed some of the frustration that the Reynard drivers were facing: "The chicanes are brutal! I have full lock through there I have so much understeer. We just can't seem to see our way through the problem."
Vasser had to settle for 15th, and he will have Mario Haberfeld alongside him at the start in the Conquest Reynard. The final three starters will be the two Dale Coyne Racing Lolas of Gualter Salles and Geoff Boss bracketing the second Walker Reynard of Rodolfo Lavin.
After a 10:45 am warmup session, the Champ Cars will take the green flag in the Lexmark Indy 300 Sunday afternoon at 2:35 pm. For US fans this means a late night on Saturday with a race start at 12:35 am EDT.