A.J. ALLMENDINGER LEADS RuSPORT 1-2 SWEEP OF OPENING CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING SESSION FOR INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON EDMONTON (July 15, 2005) -- A near-capacity crowd streamed through the gates for the first day of Champ Car...
A.J. ALLMENDINGER LEADS RuSPORT 1-2 SWEEP OF OPENING CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING SESSION FOR INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON
EDMONTON (July 15, 2005) -- A near-capacity crowd streamed through the gates for the first day of Champ Car action of the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Champ Car Grand Prix of Edmonton, as racing fans from throughout Northwest Canada took the opportunity to get their first up-close look at the cars and stars of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
To commemorate the occasion, young American star A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) decided to show the huge throng something that no other Champ Car fans had even seen. The precocious Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year slapped down the fastest lap of the day around the 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway, leading a Champ Car qualifying session for the first time in his young career.
Allmendinger led a 1-2 RuSPORT sweep by putting up a track-record time of 58.628 seconds (121.150 mph), securing a front-row starting spot for Sunday's Champ Car debut in Edmonton, and earning a championship point for his effort. His chart-topping run was made even more impressive by the fact that he started his qualifying session with a bit of trouble, suffering slight contact that sent him limping down Pit Lane with a flat tire.
He recovered and returned to the track with five minutes remaining in the session, coming back on track with a fresh set of the red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas. He wasted no time in using those softer tires to full advantage, climbing to second on his first flying lap, and then posting his eventual pole-winning lap just three passes later.
His time knocked teammate Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) off the top spot and into the second position on the day, creating the second 1-2 RuSPORT qualifying sweep of the season. Wilson, who comes to Edmonton on the heels of scoring his first Champ Car win just one week ago, joined Allmendinger as the only two drivers to run less than 59 seconds, with Wilson posting a lap of 58.954 seconds (120.480 mph). The two RuSPORT drivers were joined on the first-day rostrum by local favorite Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who took third on a cloudy Friday with a best time of 59.497 seconds (119.381 mph).
Wilson wasted no time in throwing down the challenge to the rest of the field, storming to the top of the charts just 10 minutes into the session. Wilson's opening salvo left him a full half-second ahead of everyone else in the field as series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stayed in close pursuit.
The majority of the teams greeted the session's halfway point from Pit Lane, having completed their first qualifying stint, but Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bourdais took advantage of some clear track to try and make some headway. Glock used his time well, moving into the top five before eventually settling for ninth, while Bourdais appeared to be following suit before contact in Turn Seven ended his day. The points leader suffered contact in Turn Seven, folding up his left-front suspension and forcing him to head for a safe haven on the track as to not bring out the red flag and lose his fastest lap. He would end up 10th on the day with final qualifying set for tomorrow.
Wilson and Tracy rolled back on course directly after Bourdais had his incident and immediately started their climb back up the order. Wilson appeared to solidify his hold on the pole with another quick lap, but was forced to watch the remainder of the festivities from Pit Lane, after running all of his allotted 15 qualifying laps. His seat on the pit wall afforded him a great view of his teammate's exploits as the young Californian got the job done on his 12th lap. Tracy used his very last lap of the day to vault into third, dropping Servia back to fourth on his final trip around the temporary airport circuit.
Servia ended up fourth while da Matta rounded out the top five with a clocking of 59.769 seconds (118.838 mph). Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) closed his day in the sixth spot, ending up sixth after quick reflexes allowed him to recover from a 360-degree spin. Tagliani spun coming out of Turn 10, looping his Team Australia car directly in front of a pack of three cars that were on flying laps. Tagliani righted the ship in a cloud of tire smoke and got off the course, allowing the session to stay green and preserve the end of the session for those looking to move up in their last laps.
Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the seventh spot, just one week after earning a season-best fourth-place finish in Toronto. Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and his Forsythe Championship Racing squad recovered from a crash at the end of morning practice to get into the eighth spot ahead of Glock and Bourdais.
The final grid for Sunday's 88-lap West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton will be set by Saturday's final qualifying session, a session that will begin at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE QUALIFIERS
A.J. Allmendinger: "The team did a great job to get the car back together. I mean, luckily it was only a flat tire. But I thought for how hard I hit, there was going to be more damage. Got the car back together. You know, my teammate keeps making it hard on me. I did a couple of laps that were a few 10ths off of him, and I didn't know if there was much left. Just kind of closed my eyes and hung on for a lap, and luckily got the pole."
Justin Wilson: "Obviously, I think RuSPORT came here with a good setup and we've just been able to work on that and get quicker as the day progressed. We're both very excited about the prospects of having a good race here. It's just getting used to the track and understanding what this circuit requires. So far we're very pleased, and hopefully we can be up there tomorrow."
Paul Tracy: "Well, it's fast. It's all momentum and high speed. If your car is not perfectly balanced and settled, you don't have confidence in it, then it's really hard to push lap times to where AJ is. Obviously, they have their car working well. He can commit to these fast corners because it's so high speed. You know, we'll try to get our car there tomorrow."
Ronnie Bremer rejoined the Champ Car World Series this weekend after missing last weekend's Molson Indy Toronto, but the news was even better for the former Toyota Atlantic competitor as he signed a deal to drive for HVM Racing during the 2006 Champ Car season. He will finish his 2005 rookie season in the #19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for Dale Coyne Racing, and qualified 16th today.
Timo Glock was the fastest rookie on the day, logging in with the ninth-best time. Bjorn Wirdheim was the second-quickest rookie on the day and was 11th overall.