CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Friday qualifying report

Bruno Junqueira one step closer to sealing second in championship after taking provisional pole in Mexico City.   MEXICO CITY (November 15, 2002) - Brazilian native Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Bruno Junqueira one step closer to sealing second in championship after taking provisional pole in Mexico City.   MEXICO CITY (November 15, 2002) - Brazilian native Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing captured the provisional pole for Sunday's inaugural CART FedEx Championship Series Gran Premio Telemex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa in Mexico City, Mexico, earning another valuable championship point in his quest for second place in the championship and the $500,000 prize that comes with it.   With a time of 1:25.941 (116.703 mph/187.815 km/h), Junqueira guaranteed himself a spot on the front row for the season finale by turning the day's fastest lap on his 13th and final tour of the newly-refurbished 2.75-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, spoiling what would have been a great start to the weekend for Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone). Fittipaldi, who will make his final Champ Car start Sunday, fell just short after turning in a fast time of 1:26.027 (116.587 mph/187.628 km/h).   Fittipaldi held the top spot on the speed chart with 11 minutes remaining in the 35-minute qualifying session, dueling with eventual third-place qualifier Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) before a red flag situation stopped the action for fan favorite and native Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone) of Team Rahal who lost control and contacted the Turn 9 wall. But Junqueira regrouped after pacing the session early and when the green flag was displayed for the final time with just over three minutes remaining, the Brazilian shattered Fittipaldi's hopes for a front-row position with the day's quick lap as the checkered flag flew.   Franchitti hovered around the top of the speed charts for most of the session, eventually topping the charts with just over nine minutes remaining with a lap of 1:26.147 (116.424 mph/187.366 km/h). But a strategy based on the threat of rain late in the session had the Team KOOL Green driver's fate sealed. Although course marshals reported moisture in Turns 1 and 4, the Scot's gamble didn't pay off and he fell victim to the hard-charging Junqueira.   Jourdain's Team Rahal stablemate Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) built on momentum from winning The 500 Presented by Toyota in California and had an impressive showing of fourth in today's opening qualifying session. The American driver turned in a fast lap of 1:26.703 (115.678 mph/186.165 km/h).   Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Mo Nunn Racing competed the top five with a lap of 1:26.719 (115.656 mph/186.130 km/h) and will look for his second straight pole position after scoring the top spot before the fastest 500-mile race ever at California Speedway two weeks ago.   Sunday's final grid will be set with another hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow's hour-long session will be shown live on SPEED Channel at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The qualifying will set the grid for Sunday's CART FedEx Championship Series Gran Premio Telemex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa, which will be shown live Sunday on SPEED Channel (4:00 p.m. Eastern Time).   QUOTES FROM TOP-THREE PROVISIONAL QUALIFIERS FRIDAY:   BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone):  "I like road courses and this is a very good road course with very fast corners. This morning the car was really fast. I didn't even need newer tires to go fast. On our first set of tires in qualifying I was all by myself and I think I was on pole for a while. On the second set of tires we had a red [flag] and then the track got a little wet so we were slower. I was very lucky to be on pole. I really didn't think we could do it."     CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone):  "I think my situation is very similar to that of Dario's, except I didn't spin this morning. We went out early [expecting rain] on my second set of tires. So maybe we made the same mistake as Dario and those guys did. Bruno came down out of the sky and really nailed it though. So what can I say, but good job to him and we'll try to get the pole for tomorrow."   DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):  "This is really an awesome place. It's also a real challenge. The track has many different sections - some tight, you have the esses and then the stadium too. It's a real challenge for the engineers and the drivers. I'm really having a good time out there. I think the track got faster toward the end. We expected rain, so that's why we did our fastest lap in the middle of the session."   NOTEWORTHY:   * Bruno Junqueira earns one championship point for his provisional pole performance today, giving him a four-point cushion over Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) in the chase for second place in the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series point standings. Junqueira has started second in each of the past two CART FedEx Championship Series events.   * Rookies Luis Diaz (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and Andre Lotterer (#19 J.A.G. Sports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are making their respective Champ Car debuts this weekend. Diaz qualified 17th on the provisional grid with a best lap of 1:27.992 (113.983 mph), while Lotterer was just behind in 18th at 1:28.058 (113.898 mph).   * Tony Kanaan came into the weekend riding a streak of three straight top-three qualifying performances, including two pole positions in the past two races. He qualified fifth on the provisional grid today.   * Toyota-powered cars took the top two qualifying positions today, with the Honda-powered Dario Franchitti qualifying third. Ford-Cosworth's best qualifier was Jimmy Vasser, who was fourth on today's provisional grid. Toyota, which wrapped up the 2002 CART Manufacturer's Championship, has powered a series-high 11 polesitters thus far in 2002. Honda has been on the pole five times, while Ford-Cosworth has taken two poles.   -cart-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Andre Lotterer , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Luis Diaz , Chip Ganassi , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing