2006 SERIES CHAMPION SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS TRUMPS TOPSY-TURVY FIRST ROUND OF CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING IN MEXICO CITY MEXICO CITY (November 10, 2006) -- A newly-reconfigured layout greeted the Champ Car stars for the first round of qualifying around ...
2006 SERIES CHAMPION SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS TRUMPS TOPSY-TURVY FIRST ROUND OF CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING IN MEXICO CITY
MEXICO CITY (November 10, 2006) -- A newly-reconfigured layout greeted the Champ Car stars for the first round of qualifying around the 2.774-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Friday afternoon, but while the track was new, the result was old hat to those that follow the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used his red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to lead the first day of qualifying for Sunday's Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex, stopping the clocks at 1:25.449 (116.870 mph) to earn a new track record.
The layout that had previously wound through the outfield of the on-site baseball stadium, now features a scaled-down version of the fabled Peraltada as well as a sharp chicane that leads into the long, sweeping right-hand Peraltada. The new circuit proved a challenge for drivers and made for one of the most entertaining sessions of the year, as Bourdais' vault to the top of the time sheets on his seventh lap was the 13th lead change of the 30-minute outing.
Bourdais, who clinched his record-tying third consecutive championship two weeks ago in Surfers Paradise, earned his seventh consecutive front row start by leading Friday's qualifying. The Frenchman started in the front row once before in Mexico City, that coming in 2004 when he rolled from pole in a race that he went on to win in wire-to-wire fashion.
Bourdais' run overshadowed a gutty performance by 2005 Mexico City winner Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who returned to the cockpit of his RuSPORT Champ Car two weeks after suffering a broken wrist that kept him out of the Australia event. Wearing a brace to protect the ailing hand, Wilson aggravated the injury after hitting the curb in the Turn 14 chicane, but came back late in the session to post a best lap of 1:25.560 (116.718 mph), good for second in the session.
Third place went to Surfers polesitter Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who showed that his Australia performance was no fluke. The leader in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings as well as the Bridgestone Passion For Excellence standings, Power was atop the speed sheets twice during the session, but settled for third with a time of 1:25.624 (116.631 mph).
The action was fast and furious during the first half of the 30-minute qualifying run with Australia winner Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and rookie Ryan Briscoe (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) battling with Power and Wilson for the lead position on the charts. Wilson held the point halfway through the session before his aforementioned contact with the chicane, which caused no damage to the car, but his in-car camera showed that he had re-injured the hand, causing him to drop it off the steering wheel and roll slowly into the pits.
The majority of the field went back in to the pits and changed to the alternate Bridgestones, which paid off handsomely for Bourdais as he went out and set the top time. Power gave furious chase, moving Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) back to fourth, while Wilson found the strength to make one final run, where he would post his best time of the day to take the second spot.
Junqueira, who has never started worse than third in his three previous Mexico City visits, ended up fourth with a time of 1:26.118 (115.962 mph), while the rookie Briscoe was fifth in what was just his third-ever Champ Car qualifying session. Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the sixth position after carding a best time of 1:26.527 (115.414 mph), while Champ Car's youngest-ever winner Philippe slotted into the seventh position.
David Martinez (#3 Telmex/INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was impressive in his Champ Car debut, using his last lap of the day to turn in the eighth-best time of the session, clocking in at 1:26.819 (115.026 mph). Fellow Forsythe pilot Buddy Rice (#7 INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also made his series debut today, checking in with the 13th-best time, at 1:27.336 (114.345 mph).
Hometown hero Mario Dominguez (#8 Pemex/GICSA/DelValle Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up 10th in the first round of qualifying with a best lap of 1:27.151 (114.587 mph).
The final grid for Sunday's 66-lap season finale will be set with Saturday's second round of qualifying, which begins at 2 p.m. local time.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS
Sebastien Bourdais: It is hard to say how much of the time we made up on the second run was due to the tires or due to the track, but it certainly was faster. I think we have the Newman/Haas team has given me a great car here and we should have a great shot for the pole tomorrow.
Justin Wilson: The wrist was bothering me, but once you get in the car and the engine fires, you block out the pain and go for it. We have a good car as well, and I expect that both Ryan (Briscoe) and myself will have a shot for pole tomorrow.
Will Power: It is nice to come back out here after Surfers Paradise and put another good result on the board. Coming back to a track where I have some experience definitely helps and the team has done a lot of work in the latter part of the season that has really made a difference.