CHAMPCAR/CART: da Matta edges Tracy on Friday at Cleveland

CHAMPCAR/CART: da Matta edges Tracy on Friday at Cleveland

Cristiano da Matta carried his Portland victory momentum into Cleveland, Ohio to earn his first Champ Car World Series provisional pole since his return to the open-wheel series. The top spot today guarantees him a front row starting spot and...

Cristiano da Matta carried his Portland victory momentum into Cleveland, Ohio to earn his first Champ Car World Series provisional pole since his return to the open-wheel series. The top spot today guarantees him a front row starting spot and one bonus point.

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Adriano Manocchia.
"Very happy with the way things went today," expressed da Matta. "The team has started to show signs of things getting better over the last few races."

The Brazilian set his time just prior to the first round of qualifying at the Burke Lakefront Airport circuit end under a red flag/checker flag. Da Matta's time in his PKV Racing Lola was 58.436 (129.742 mph) -- only 0.004 seconds faster than Paul Tracy.

"We weren't sure that we were going to be quick here in Cleveland," added da Matta "so I am very very happy!"

Friday's qualifying ended early when Justin Wilson spun exiting the apex of Turn 6, the RuSPORT driver on a hot lap with traffic on his heels. Not only did the spin slow him down but when his engine stalled, it left the Brit helpless and cars, including da Matta, maneuvering to avoid contact.

Tracy was clocked at 58.440 (129.733 mph) and held the pole until the very end. The racers had already met their 20-minute green flag in the scheduled 30 minutes of the timed session when the Champ Car officials elected to end qualifying due to the precarious position of Wilson's car.

"I thought things went okay with the first set of tires," remarked Tracy. "I clipped the wing [at the end of the practice immediately prior to qualifying] and didn't feel I got the best out of the car in qualifying."

Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing teammate was just adrift of the Canadian by 0.110 seconds. Mario Dominguez slotted third fastest at 58.546 (129.498 mph). "We started fast [first practice session] and then worked on the car to improve driving (setup) for me. It is good to be in the top three. I just need to get faster in Turns 7 and 8."

Newman/Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais was fourth quickest followed by Alex Tagliani (Team Australia Racing) and Jimmy Vasser from the PKV Racing stable.

"We were really, really close but one-tenth of a second difference puts you P4 (position four); that's how competitive the series is now," commented Bourdais whose quick lap was 58.576 (129.432 mph).

Saturday will determine the final starting lineup at 2:00 p.m. (EDT).

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Series INDYCAR