CHAMPCAR/CART: Junquiera leans on Friday time to claim Denver pole

In a rain-soaked single-car qualifying session, defending Denver Grand Prix champion Bruno Junqueira simply held on to his time from Friday's run, and will start from the front row for Sunday's race.

"I don't think it was really (fair) to be here after not going out today. I think the only other guy out there that could have beaten me was Adrian [Fernandez], but we were both penalized when the rains came,"

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Ford Motor Company.
Junqueira's time of 1:01.438 (96.507 mph) on the twisty 1.647 mile street circuit just outside downtown Denver, was his second pole in as many events here in the Mile High city.

But despite not being able to shoot for an additional bonus point for fast time Saturday, Junqueira seemed eager to get to the job at hand in his pursuit of series points leader Paul Tracy.

"I wanted to try it and get another championship point, but the rain didn't let us go out unfortunately. We didn't even start the engine. I hope we can have a good race tomorrow and Oriol [Servia] will stay a car length away from me."

Servia ran the quickest lap today, timing in at 1:01.477 (96.507), just .039 seconds off Junqueira's best from Friday. Servia is coming off a second-place finish recently in Montreal and is hot to post his maiden victory.

"We improved from ninth to second today so it's a good result and a good step forward." Servia said. "I think it's very slippery out there, we know that from the last 10 laps or so from last year's race. We'll see about the start, but we need to be consistent and strong and maybe we'll get that first win."

More important, perhaps, than securing the pole and the championship point that goes with it, Junqueira's battle with Tracy may get closer. Tracy will start ninth after spinning his pole position hopes away when he pushed the envelope completely open on his run.

"I knew I had a good run, but I just lost it. The tires were too cold. With this type of qualifying, you have no choice but to push it to the limit."

Perhaps the most disappointed driver on the day was Mexican veteran Adrian Fernandez. His run was ruined when the skies opened up and foiled his hopes. Fernandez had been very quick in earlier sessions and might have knocked Servia off the front row.

Adrian Fernandez.
Photo by Dan Streck.
"I came out onto the main straight in front of the pits [on my second lap] and I wasn't sure if it was raining or not. I started to brake and there was water everywhere." Fernandez said. "On the back part of the track it was not raining so that completely took me by surprise. Obviously, that cost us any opportunity to go for pole."

None the less, Fernandez can keep his hopes alive for another victory when he starts from the outside of row two.

Junqueira's teammate on the Newman/Haas team, rookie Sebastian Bourdais, finished second in Saturday's round of single-car qualifying in CART's new best of three lap format. His hot lap of 1:01.547 (96.336 mph) moved him up to third overall and he'll start behind Bruno in row two.

Bourdais nearly has the Rookie of the Year battle wrapped up, and leads his closest competitor, Darren Manning, by 50 points with just five races to run. He was very receptive of the new qualifying style.

"The single car qualifying is definitely the way to do it here. I'd like to see the 10 minute warm-up added back into the session to get some heat in the tires, but there is always room for a few improvements."

Other notables on the day were Tiago Monteiro who'll start fifth, Canadian Patrick Carpentier with sixth, with seventh going to Manning, the top rookie on the grid.

As the series closes in on its final few events, points will be hard to get, and on a street circuit like Denver it's extremely difficult to pass. Expect there to be a lot of deft maneuvers here this weekend as the series leaders bid for top honors.