In a last-minute effort, Canadian Patrick Carpentier grabbed the provisional pole Friday on a near-perfect lap, guaranteeing him a front-row spot for Sunday's Champ Car World Series race at Laguna Seca Raceway.
"That was the best lap I've ever had in a champ car", Carpentier told his team after qualifying. "When I started the lap, I could see that I gained two tenths of a second. Then I dropped a half a tenth in one corner, then a tenth in another corner, and I thought, yeah, its really started going. I went so hard into the last corner. I knew if I could finish the lap, it was going to be hard to beat."
Early on in the session, it was Alex Tagliani who turned the best lap, with Mario Dominguez, Ryan Hunter Reay, Michel Jourdain and Rodolfo Lavin in the top five.
Carpentier, the defending champion for this weekends event, initially took the top spot half-way through the stanza, clocking in at 1:10.540, 114.216 mph. Bruno Junqueira stopped the timer just .15 behind, then Tracy vaulted past the two with a dazzling lap of 1:10.402 on his next time around.
Champ Car Series points leader Sebastien Bourdais qualified next to Carpentier, the Frenchman keeping pace ahead of Forsythe Racing's Paul Tracy who placed third. Although finishing out of the points in Montreal two weeks ago, Bourdais fears not of the Canadian team of Carpentier and Tracy, but of a source closer to home.
"It's Bruno", Bourdais said when asked who he'll look out for in the race. "He's second in the championship and he's closest to me. He will do what he can to win and I'll be trying to finish in the top five for each of the last races we have. If we would have finished in a good position in Montreal, perhaps we could be looking at rapping up this championship in Las Vegas"
Junqueira had his piece of the pole too, but with ten minutes to go lost it promptly to Tracy who was them bested by fellow Canadian countrymen Tagliani. Carpentier came into the pits for some quick adjustments prior to his last stint on course, then went out for his pole-winning lap.
Prior to his quick lap, Carpentier proved he was human when his car drifted over the rumble strips coming out of turn three. In the process, a cloud of dust rose from the back of his car, blocking the vision of Tracy how had closed behind.
"I couldn't see from turn three to turn four." Tracy said. "That was on my quickest lap of qualifying, I may have been quicker if it weren't for that."
Eleven of the eighteen cars entered were covered by less than one second when qualifying came to an end. Finishing behind Tracy fourth through tenth were Tagliani, Junqueira, Dominguez, rookie points leader A. J. Allmendinger, Jimmy Vasser, Jourdain and Lavin.
Of all the tracks I come to, this is the best, it's really beautiful." Carpentier said. "This track has everything in a road course that a drive would want, there's not a lot of hard braking, and it's got a lot of elevation changes. I don't know what it is but I do very well here."
In an briefing prior to Friday's qualifying round, Champ Car World Series officials were please to announce that Bridgestone and Corona had been named title sponsors for the inaugural Las Vegas race to be held in two weeks, the evening of September 25th.