SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 13, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske continued the pursuit of his first career FedEx Championship Series championship Friday when he secured the provisional pole for the Honda Indy 300 on ...
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 13, 2000) - Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske continued the pursuit of his first career FedEx Championship Series championship Friday when he secured the provisional pole for the Honda Indy 300 on Australia's Gold Coast (midnight ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) put together of lap of 109.302 miles per hour (1 minute, 32.057 seconds) on the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit to claim the provisional top starting spot for Sunday's 19th of 20 rounds in the championship. A second and final round of qualifying is scheduled for 11:45 p.m. ET Friday (1:45 p.m. local time Saturday).
De Ferran has parlayed top-five finishes in five of the past seven events into a 153-134 lead over Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green heading into the weekend. De Ferran could clinch the first FedEx Championship Series championship of his six-year career with a victory Sunday - worth 20 championship points - and one of two additional points for either winning the pole or leading the most race laps.
Tracy qualified eighth on the provisional grid at 107.532 mph (1:33.572). He leads a group of eight drivers who are grouped within 17 points (134-117) and are all still well within reach of de Ferran, with a maximum of 44 points still available in the championship.
One of them, defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified second provisionally at 108.562 mph (1:32.684). He owns podium finishes in each of his past two starts, including a victory at Gateway International Raceway, and has moved into sixth place in the championship with 122 points.
Montoya's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), qualified third at 108.133 mph (1:33.052). He comes to Australia off his first victory of the season at Houston two weeks ago.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, fourth at 108.051 mph (1:33.123); and Tony Kanaan (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing, fifth at 108.002 mph (1:33.165).
Like Montoya, Andretti and Vasser remain in championship contention. Andretti stands fourth with 127 points while Vasser stands ninth with 117.
Defending Honda Indy 300 champion Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green qualified sixth at 107.753 mph (1:33.380).
GIL de FERRAN , Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It's good for today, but we're taking nothing for granted. I'm expecting a tough battle for tomorrow, and a lot of people will be making changes. Obviously, if it rains, it stays as it is and it's one more point for me in the championship, but it makes no difference. I just got the car working better. We made a small change on the set of tires and we were able to get a rhythm on the second set. We're not taking anything for granted, but we're off to a good start."
JUAN MONTOYA , Target Toyota Lola: "It's pretty good. On the first set, I think I was trying too hard, and on the second set I took it a little easier. I only got one quick lap on the second set and then it went red, so that was a bit of a shame. The car is pretty good for qualifying, so we should have a superb race car."
JIMMY VASSER , Target Toyota Lola: "We just sat there this morning. We didn't see the use of doing rain stuff. The car was pretty good, the same stuff as Houston. We set quick time on the first set of tires, and didn't really get a clear lap on the second set of tires. There was a lot of jockeying for clear track. But the car feels pretty good. I think if the track rubbers in, it will be good for me, but if it rains, we're going to have to make a few changes."
Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske is seeking his fifth pole of the season, second only to Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who has a series-high six. De Ferran's previous poles this season have come at Homestead, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Houston. His career-best start in five appearances at Australia is sixth in 1995.
Montoya's six pole positions this season have come at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago and Gateway. Although his six poles lead the FedEx Championship Series, only one has come on a road or street course, at Detroit. Montoya is seeking to match his series-high total of seven poles last season, which set a CART rookie record.
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking to match or better a season-best start of second, established at Long Beach and equaled at Gateway.