The Champ Car World Series returned to Silicon Valley this week, with defending San Jose Grand Prix winner Sebastien Bourdais taking provisional pole in first round qualifying action.
It was a "worst-to-first" effort for Bourdais and his McDonald's Racing Team, who literally went from the dead last out of seventeen qualifiers to best on his final hot lap, a blistering 49.509 (104.926 mph).
"We had a braking issue in the first half of the session", Bourdais said. "It was just a big struggle the first run. We spent a lot of time on the pits trying to work it out. After we went back out it took a couple of laps to get the tires back up to temperature, then I got that one good lap in and I guess that was the best."
England's Justin Wilson (49.747, 104.424 mph) grabbed second quickest on the afternoon, and Aussi Will Power was third best (49.822, 104.267 mph). Veterans Bruno Junquiera and Alex Tagliani tied for the fourth quickest time at 49.852 (104.204 mph).
Dan Clarke and Paul Tracy took to the track early in the session, the pair being the only drivers to take times during their maximum 15-lap qualifying attempt.
Clarke kicked out a lap of 50.240 seconds; some six-tenths better than his best time during morning practice.
Tracy saved his car from wall contact after sliding into the run-off at Turn Six. Upon bring in his INDECK Forsythe Championship Racing entry into the pits, the majority of the field proceeded out on course.
Power and Wilson became the first drivers to lap in the 49-second bracket. Following closely behind were Alex Tagliani, Oriol Servia and rookie Tristan Gommendy.
With ten minutes remaining, Wilson took over the top spot. All the competitors at this point had completed either seven or eight laps. Nearly all entered the pits for final adjustments before heading out for the final stint.
"This is the first year here that we've been able to get the power down." Wilson said. "I don't know what it was with the Lola, but the Panoz chassis is really helping us to launch out of the corners."
Rookie Robert Doornbos, who won the Mont-Tremblant race in Canada earlier this month, made significant improvements to finish with the sixth best time of the day with a lap of 49.918 (104.067 mph).
Bourdais earns one championship point for his effort, and has a guaranteed front row starting position for Sunday's race. The Frenchman now leads his closest competition, Doornbos, by 21-points, 195-174.