CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Pole Qualifying Report

Red-Hot Franchitti Takes Honda Indy Pole In Front Of Record Crowd Surfers Paradise, AUS (October 16, 1998) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green earned his series-high fifth pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season in record...

Red-Hot Franchitti Takes Honda Indy Pole In Front Of Record Crowd

Surfers Paradise, AUS (October 16, 1998) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green earned his series-high fifth pole position of the FedEx Championship Series season in record fashion Saturday as he led all qualifiers for Sunday's Honda Indy before a record-setting crowd of 67,659 on Australia's Gold Coast.

Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) posted a lap of 109.028 miles per hour (1 minute, 32.298 seconds) to eclipse Alex Zanardi's day-old track record of 109.002 mph (1:32.310) and earn the sixth pole of his career for Sunday's 18th round of the FedEx Championship Series (8:30 p.m. ET, tape delay, ESPN). Saturday's attendance marked the second consecutive day the eight-year event established daily record figures and Honda Indy officials are expecting to eclipse last year's all-time Sunday record attendance mark of 91,664.

Franchitti, winner of three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events, registered his fourth consecutive front-row start and eighth in the last 10 events, dating to an outside pole at Portland. He also earned an important PPG Cup point, drawing him to four (148-144) behind second-place Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) in the battle to finish second to Zanardi in the PPG Cup points race.

Franchitti collected the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award with the opportunity to add an additional $30,000 in rollover bonus money with a victory Sunday.

Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), winner of back-to-back FedEx Championship Series titles in 1997 and this year, was thwarted by a gearbox problem in the bid to earn his first pole since last year at Vancouver. Zanardi, the provisional pole sitter, managed only three laps in Saturday's final qualifying session before incurring the gear box problem that forced his retirement. He then watched helplessly from pit road as his pursuers took aim at his record-setting lap.

Still, Zanardi matched a season best with his fourth outside pole of the campaign and his ninth top-five start in 18 events this year. He chases a series-high sixth victory of the season Sunday.

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) matched a career best by starting third at 108.777 mph (1:32.501). He started third at Milwaukee in 1996 and matched the start last year at Portland in his return from a broken right leg sustained in a second-lap crash during last year's event here.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda) gave Team KOOL Green two of the top four starting positions by qualifying fourth at 108.681 mph (1:32.583). The effort matches a season best established two weeks ago at Houston.

Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) qualified fifth at 108.675 mph (1:32.588). He has started sixth or better in 11 of the past 13 FedEx Championship Series road or street races, including five pole positions.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "During qualifying, I didn't get to do a [hot] lap on the first set of tires. I flat spotted them, then I came back in under a red flag and put on a new set of tires. I want back out and told myself, 'This is it.' I made one mistake, but I was able to hang on. It's a great result for myself, for Honda, for Firestone and for Team KOOL Green. We've been running at the front a lot lately, but it really took until Elkhart [Lake] to get it all sorted out. The car has been quick all year, It's just that I'm getting more comfortable in the car and the team is starting to put things together on Sunday afternoons when it counts."

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "We had a little problem with the gearbox. I can't do anything but shake Dario's hand, but I'm disappointed that we didn't have an opportunity to fight for it. Certainly, for myself I wanted to get the pole. I can't allow Dario to win the race. I've got to go out and try to win. I've got to help Jimmy somehow [Teammate Jimmy Vasser stands second in the FedEx Championship Series points race, in which Franchitti stands third]. I definitely think we have the car to win."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Kmart Swift Ford: "Yesterday we didn't have a really super day. I managed to flat spot all four of my sets of tires thanks to a braking problem. But we were able to get the problem corrected today. Alex had a small problem today when he could have had a great run for the pole, and when I saw him come in, I thought, 'This could be my day.' I got out on my second set of tires but I ran into some traffic and that's where I lost it. [Joking] When I went past the place where I had the accident [last year], I was lifting, because I was scared. If it hadn't been for that, I'd have been on the pole."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

Dario Franchitti's (KOOL Reynard Honda) season-high five pole positions have been earned at Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Vancouver and Australia. He has started on the front row in eight of the past nine FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses, including outside poles at Portland, Cleveland, Laguna Seca and Houston, respectively.

Franchitti's sixth career pole position, including last year at Toronto, tied him with Jacques Villeneuve, Gordon Johncock, Roberto Guerrero and Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) for 14th on the all-time CART list.

Zanardi's outside pole position gives him top-three starts in all three of his career appearances at Australia, including third in 1996 and the pole last year. He is making his fourth front-row start of the season, matching his season-high performances at Rio de Janeiro, Detroit and Toronto, respectively.

Legalized Australian bookmakers have made Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) the favorite for Sunday's Honda Indy at odds of 2.5 to 1. Zanardi is followed by Dario Franchitti (3.25-1), Michael Andretti (11-1), Paul Tracy (11-1) and Jimmy Vasser (11-1). Vincenzo Sospiri is the long shot at 1,001-1.

Rookie Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes) did not participate in Saturday's final Champ Car qualifying session after damaging his primary and secondary cars during separate incidents in morning practice. Castro-Neves stood on Friday's lap of 107.029 mph (1:34.012) and will start 18th.

Among the attendees at Saturday's final qualifying for the Honda Indy was former Wimbledon tennis champion and native Australian, Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Source: CART Online

------------------------ Internet Access Australia------------------------ --- IAA is MNI's ISP of choice at the '98 Gold Coast Indy --- ---- Melbourne -- Tel. 03 9686 6677 -- Fax 03 9686 6644 ----- ------------------ http://www.iaccess.com.au ---------------------

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Guerrero , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Gordon Johncock , Vincenzo Sospiri