CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Friday qualifying report

Bourdais Leads First-Round Champ Car Qualifying in Denver DENVER (August 13, 2004) -- Friday's opening round of Champ Car World Series qualifying for Sunday's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver lasted for 35 minutes, and saw drivers ripping...

Bourdais Leads First-Round Champ Car Qualifying in Denver

DENVER (August 13, 2004) -- Friday's opening round of Champ Car World Series qualifying for Sunday's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver lasted for 35 minutes, and saw drivers ripping around the 1.657-mile street course for the entire session, but it was the final 30 seconds of the day that told the tale.

Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used those final 30 seconds to do what he has been doing all year long, topping the charts after carding a new track-record time of 60.413 seconds (98.740 mph).

The lap guarantees Bourdais a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 90-lap race and also earns him a championship point, allowing the Newman/Haas Racing driver to widen his series lead to 48 over his teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The front-row start is the sixth of the season for the sophomore pilot, and extends his streak of top-three starts to nine in a row. The nine consecutive top-three starts to start a season is a Champ Car series record, and marks the longest such qualifying streak since Cristiano da Matta strung nine in a row together during his championship-winning 2002 campaign.

Bourdais turned his chart-topping time on his final lap of the day, knocking Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) off of the first-day pole. Dominguez, who put on a show during last year's event in Denver by making his way from deep in the field to finish seventh, would settle for the second spot on the day after reaching a top time of 60.721 seconds (98.239 mph).

Dominguez was among the drivers that went out very early in the 35-minute session, joining a group of six cars that looked to take advantage of clear track conditions. Dominguez put up a quick lap on his fourth pass to take the top spot, then dropped into the 60-second range on his sixth orbit to maintain his advantage.

Defending series champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) vaulted to the pole halfway through the session with a lap of 60.885 seconds (97.975 mph), but saw his next lap ruined when Ryan Hunter-Reay's (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spin brought out the red flag. Hunter-Reay looped, and briefly stalled his car in Turn Five to bring out the scarlet banner, sending the field back to Pit Lane for new tires.

The session got back underway with eight minutes on the clock, but it would be the final two of those minutes that made the difference. Dominguez wrested the pole back away from Tracy as he used the last of his 15-lap allotment to jump ahead of the defending series champ, then rolled down Pit Lane as Bourdais started his final trip around the nine-turn circuit. Dominguez watched silently as Bourdais made his final trip, only to see the former FIA International F3000 titlewinner leapfrog to the top of the charts.

Tracy would settle for the third spot and was the last driver on the day to get into the 60-second range, while Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) survived a brush with the wall to put his Reynard into the fourth place on the speed sheets. Haberfeld, who matched a career-high with a fourth-place run this year in Toronto, hung a best time of 61.198 seconds (97.474 mph) to claim the fourth spot. His time was a scant .005 seconds quicker than that of Junqueira, who rounded out the top five.

Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was sixth on the day, posting his best time on his 13th lap, while birthday boy Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it through a late-session spin to finish seventh. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put up a lap of 61.447 seconds (97.079 mph) to snare the eighth spot, while Hunter-Reay was relegated to ninth after having his best lap taken away due to his causing the red flag earlier in the session. The penalty caused Hunter-Reay to lose a fastest lap of 61.228 seconds, a time that would have given him the sixth spot on the board.

Road America winner Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 with a time of 61.757 seconds (96.951 mph), putting him one spot ahead of Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Wilson ran just eight of his 15 laps in first-round qualifying, but was still the quickest rookie of the six that turned laps on a sunny Friday.

Guy Smith (#17 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put up the 13th-best time of the day in his first Champ Car street-course qualifying session, while Nelson Philippe (#14 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was 15th in his return. The 17-year-old Philippe ran the first five races of the season in the Rocketsports car currently piloted by Smith, but has returned this weekend after taking over the Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing mount formerly held by Alex Sperafico.

Allmendinger would end his Friday without posting a lap time, retiring after planting his RuSPORT machine into the Turn Five tires on his second lap. He will have another chance to earn a top grid position on Saturday when final qualifying for Sunday's event takes place on the streets of Denver. The final session begins at 1:45 p.m. Mountain Time and can be seen live on HDNet. Fans can also follow all the action via the Race Director feature of the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am just trying to do the best and I am keeping consistency. On the first set of tires, I ran into traffic. Then the red flag came out. On the second set I was going fast and slow. I was catching Nelson (Philippe) and trying not to bump into him from behind. So I basically had two laps to go and I sacrificed one lap to build a gap and make sure that my tires were up to temperature. Then I just ran hard on the last lap. Had a clean, fast run, and posted the time we did. The McDonald's car is very good and it is good to secure a front row start."

MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am not as happy as I could be with Sebastien (Bourdais) beating me on that last lap. The Herdez team has given me a great car. I really like this track and it is so fun to drive. It is very challenging, so it makes every session interesting. We will try again tomorrow, we at least know we have a fast car."

PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am extremely frustrated that the red flag came out with the spin from Ryan. He turned himself around and continued, so I am not sure why the red was thrown. The cars are all out trying to get a good run and I lost my opportunity with new tires when that happened. We will just try and regroup and hope to have better luck tomorrow."

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Guy Smith , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Alex Sperafico , Nelson Philippe , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing