Max Papis drove his ...
Max Papis drove his #7 Miller Lite Lola/Ford to a commanding pole position today at Portland International Raceway, while running in the first, ostensibly slower qualifying group for CART's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200. His lap of 57.785 seconds/122.669mph was turned on his final, of 15 tours of the 12-turn, 1.969-mile road course, and the Italian agreed, "Lola does a good job for us. You know, you can make a good car like the B1/00 crappy with the wrong adjustments, and after Friday practice, my crew made the right suspension changes to our car. I think we have the most competitive package with Lola and Ford-Cosworth; they both come up with new options for us at every track."
Papis will be joined on the front row by Cristiano da Matta, who matched his best 2001 start with a lap of 57.886sec/122.497mph in the #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Lola/Toyota. "The results speak for themselves where Lola is concerned (four of the top seven qualifiers have Lola chassis)," da Matta noted. "The Lola chassis has been good everywhere this season, and starting second helps us try to reach our goal of winning that much easier. CART shortened the race (from 112 to 98 laps) and I think it will be good for us. It will be less of a fuel conservation race and more of a speed race, and we are looking good in that area."
While Saturday qualifying was held in moderate, 76-78 ambient climate with light wind and track temps between 108 and 111 degrees, rain is anticipated for race day. "I have won many races in the rain," da Matta shrugged, and Papis, too, is known as an excellent rain racer.
Rookie Bruno Junqueira qualified the #4 Target Lola/Toyota sixth and was "happy with our result today. We have had good practice sessions and we get faster and faster each time out on the track. We have been very close to a win several times and I think we have a great chance tomorrow," he said after setting his lap of 58.061sec/122.085mph. Junqueira was the final car in the 122mph range. Christian Fittipaldi starts seventh in the #11 Kmart Blue Light Special Lola/Toyota and, while he said Friday "we could win if we started in the top to six spots, I'll expand that to the top seven positions. I have no problem racing in the rain, but it would be better for us and the fans if it was dry."
Lola chief engineer Frank Dernie is on hand for this weekend's Champ Car contest after spending last weekend in LeMans for the 24-hour enduro. "No two teams here are running the same setup; it's always a matter of choice, isn't it? We're here to make sure our teams are pleased with the product and our support of their campaigns. We'd also like to be able to supply teams that run any of the three CART engines in 2002."