CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Saturday qualifying report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STORMS TO NEW LONG BEACH TRACK RECORD IN PACING FINAL QUALIFYING FOR CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON OPENER LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2006) -- A Champ Car driver gets 15 laps around any given track in order to set a fast...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STORMS TO NEW LONG BEACH TRACK RECORD IN PACING FINAL QUALIFYING FOR CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON OPENER

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2006) -- A Champ Car driver gets 15 laps around any given track in order to set a fast time in qualifying, but two-time defending Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), used just six of them to establish his dominance in Long Beach.

Bourdais set a new track record on his sixth trip around the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit, then decided to spend the rest of his day admiring his handiwork, getting out of car after just one stint on his red-walled Bridgestone Potenza tires. His top lap of 1:06.886 (105.924 mph) was nearly a half-second better than anything anyone else in the 18-car field was able to muster on a sunny Saturday, giving him the Bridgestone Pole Position for tomorrow's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The defending Long Beach champion earned his 19th career Champ Car pole with the effort, moving him into a tie for 10th on the all-time Champ Car list. He will be joined on the front row for tomorrow's 76-lap affair by RuSPORT's Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who snared the second spot in today's qualifying with a best lap of 1:07.208 (105.416 mph). Bourdais' Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top three after posting a top effort of 1:07.225 (105.389 mph).

Warmer temperatures and another day of racing rubber being laid on the 11-turn street course made for quicker times as the Champ Cars rolled out for their final qualifying session and times started dropping almost immediately as a result. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first driver to wrest the top spot away from Bourdais, vaulting to the top of charts at the halfway-point of the 35-minute session.

Tracy's best lap triggered a furious run of quick circuits that saw his Forsythe Championship Racing teammate Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) jump ahead before Bourdais decided to put his cards on the table. Using the red-walled option tires from Bridgestone, the Frenchman went to the point on his third lap, got into the 66-second range on his fifth and set his eventual polewinning time on his next pass.

With Bourdais eschewing further action and watching the final few minutes from the relative safety of Pit Lane, attentions turned to the fight for the second spot on the grid. Wilson knocked off Dominguez with five minutes to go to earn his first Long Beach front-row berth while Tracy and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) set their sights on upending him. Tracy's hunt ended with five minutes left in the session as he clouted the wall coming out of Turn Eleven, breaking his suspension and ending his day.

Allmendinger raced past Dominguez as Tracy limped his car off course and into a safe haven, therefore allowing the Canadian to avoid losing his fastest time of the day. Allmendinger would spend the next three minutes on the inside of the second row, but dropped back to fourth with a time of 1:07.249 (105.352 mph) as Junqueira slipped past the Californian on his final pass.

Junqueira, Allmendinger and the rest of the field that still had part of their 15-lap allotment left, lost the opportunity to use them with two minutes remaining in the session when Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got together in Turn Eleven. The accident effectively blocked the track at the slowest point on the course, causing Champ Car Race Control to call for the red flag, effectively ending qualifying with two minutes still on the clock.

Dominguez rounded out the top five with a best lap of 1:07.301 (105.270 mph) while Tracy would settle for sixth, his deepest Long Beach starting spot since 2002. Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the seventh position, putting him one spot ahead of PKV Racing's Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Servia was promoted to eighth when Power drew a penalty for his part in bringing out the red flag, with the resulting loss of his fastest lap dropping him to ninth on the grid for Sunday's opener. Power will still lead the six-person rookie class to tomorrow's green flag from the ninth position and is the only rookie starting in the top 10. Former series champion Cristiano da Matta (#19 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 with a time of 1:07.982 (104.216 mph).

Former series champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make his 211th consecutive Champ Car start from the 12th position on the grid, while his teammate Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will grid 17th.

Tomorrow's season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take the green flag at 1 p.m. local, 4 p.m. Eastern. The race can be seen live on NBC as well as the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws, using the popular Race Director feature.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

Sebastien Bourdais: Oh, I think the whole McDonald's team made a big effort and it showed in the performance. The car was great, not really much to complain about. This morning we had a good amount of running but we were getting into qualifying a little with some unknowns. Today we definitely put our stuff together and it worked out great.

Justin Wilson: Yeah, it's been a very tough weekend so far.  I'd like to
thank my crew.  They've worked very hard to turn the car around and make
it stronger and faster.  Quite pleased for them that we've managed to
sneak onto the front row.  From here, hopefully we can have a good race.

Bruno Junqueira: But still I'm quite happy to start my first race back. It's very important to start up front here in Long Beach, a street course, as everybody knows. I'm feeling pretty good for the race. All the Newman/Haas cars are pretty consistent, up front, at the top every session. Anyway, even my car didn't handle perfect, the car is really good. I think when you put the race setup, the car will be quite competitive.

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais scored the 19th pole of his career, tying him for 10th all time with Rex Mays and Danny Sullivan.

* Paul Tracy will start sixth on the grid for Sunday's race. Tracy has not started lower than sixth on a street or road course since the Denver race in 2003.

* Tomorrow, Katherine Legge will become the first female driver to start a Champ Car race since Lyn St. James took the green at Michigan International Speedway in 1995. St. James is also the last female driver to run a Champ Car road course race, competing in Cleveland in 1993.

-ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Lyn St. James , Danny Sullivan , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Charles Zwolsman , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta