CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Saturday qualifying report

JUSTIN WILSON TAKES BRIDGESTONE POLE FOR CHAMP CAR SEASON FINALE, LEADING RUSPORT 1-2 QUALIFYING SWEEP IN MEXICO CIYT MEXICO CITY (November 5, 2005) --Almost the forgotten man in the hunt for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World ...

JUSTIN WILSON TAKES BRIDGESTONE POLE FOR CHAMP CAR SEASON FINALE, LEADING RUSPORT 1-2 QUALIFYING SWEEP IN MEXICO CIYT

MEXICO CITY (November 5, 2005) --Almost the forgotten man in the hunt for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship, Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made the loudest noise as the series ran its final qualifying session of the 2005 campaign on a sunny Saturday in Mexico City.

Sometimes lost in the shuffle of Sebastien Bourdais' (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) championship, Oriol Servia's (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) breakout year and the trials and tribulations of the mercurial Paul Tracy, (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Wilson has quietly established himself as one of the top young drivers in motorsports in 2005.

The soft-spoken Brit did all his talking with the loud pedal today at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, taking the Bridgestone Pole Award for tomorrow's Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate Presented by Banamex. Wilson lapped the challenging 2.786-mile road course in 1:26.602 (115.813 mph) to take his second pole of the season and his first since the Portland race back in June. He led a 1-2 RuSPORT sweep of the front row for Sunday's 70-lap event, joining Friday qualifying leader A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on the front row, with Allmendinger scoring the second starting spot by virtue of his leading the Friday qualifying session.

Wilson wasted little time in jumping to the top of the time sheets, needing just four laps on his red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to vault into the pole position. The action heated up soon after as Tracy and Servia posted their best laps in pursuit of Wilson, slotting into the third and fourth spots respectively while Team Australia stablemates Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) swapped the fifth spot between them.

Bourdais stepped up one minute later and leapfrogged Wilson for the pole, checking in with a best lap of 1:26.827 (115.512 mph) on just his third lap of the day, rebounding after a Friday session that saw him mired in the sixth position. The position hold would up as the majority of the field rolled down Pit Lane for fresh tires and fuel.

The defending race winner still had the point with 10 minutes remaining in the session, but Wilson soon shook him aside by posting what would be the eventual polewinning orbit just one minute later. Wilson's chances were helped immensely soon after he logged his top lap as 2005 Toyota Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the red flag with a stall in Turn Six.

The stoppage meant that at most, the remainder of the field would get just one final attempt at knocking the RuSPORT boys off their lofty perch. Allmendinger used his final time around the 17-turn layout to post his best time of the day with a 1:27.033 (115.239 mph), but his status as the Friday qualifying leader meant that his position in the second starting spot was secure.

Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made the biggest move on the final lap, climbing all the way into the top five with a best lap of 1:27.287 (114.904 mph). The late charge earned the 2002 series champion his third consecutive top-five starting spot and slotted him in right between the Forsythe Championship Racing duo of fourth-place Tracy and sixth-placed Mario Dominguez (#7 Roshfrans Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Servia, who still holds a 33-point lead over polesitter Wilson for the second position in the 2005 season standings, settled for seventh,

Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored his best starting spot since San Jose, earning the eighth grid position with a time of 1:27.653 (114.424 mph). The 19-year-old Frenchman will help France win its first-ever Nation's Cup award if either he or Bourdais make it to the green flag tomorrow, marking the fourth different country to win the Nation's Cup in the 10-year history of the award.

Home-country favorite Rodolfo Lavin (#55 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his second top-10 starting spot of the season by claiming the ninth position while veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) overcame a post-session interference penalty to take the 10th place on the grid.

Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top-qualifying rookie on the day in what turned out to be a very tough day for Champ Car's next generation. The new Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year winner, Glock will grid 12th after posting a best lap of 1:28.141 (113.790 mph). The eight Champ Car rookies that will take the green flag tomorrow will all take up the last eight spots on the grid.

Tomorrow's fourth running of the Gran Premio Telmex/Tecate Presented by Banamex will take the green flag at 2:45 p.m. local time tomorrow (3:45 Sunday) and can be seen live on SPEED Channel, beginning at 3:30 p.m. In addition, fans can follow all of the action via the Internet with the Race Director Powered by Intel feature available on the series' official website, www.champcar.ws.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:

Justin Wilson: "I think it's going to be a strong pace and it's going to be a long race. We'll have to play it as smart as we can and try to make sure we have a good car tomorrow in warm-up and the same throughout the race. Try to do whatever we can to stay in the top three. I think that's the important thing for myself at the moment. If we can win the race, we will. If we can't, we'll finish as high as we can."

A.J. Allmendinger: "It's been a struggle today. We seemed to have a great car, we're right about on the edge of having a car that's magnificent. Kind of just battled back and forth today trying to get a good baseline setup. A little bit frustrated overall, but it's great for the team. Justin did a great job starting on the front row again together. Hopefully we won't give it to Sebastien this time like we did last time. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Sebastien Bourdais: "Well, it's just been a weird day for us. We had a great car this morning. I really thought we were going to have a shot at the pole. We put a new set of tires at the end. Something must have happened on the car. We just got it all wrong because ever since that point we never really got the car underneath us. Just couldn't pull it off. It's a little bit disappointing because obviously last year we had a pretty dominant performance. That proves that basically every year's different and you need to stay on top of your game. It doesn't seem like today we got it."

NOTEWORTHY

* Jimmy Vasser earned his 12th consecutive top-10 starting spot with today's qualifying result, marking the longest such streak of his illustrious Champ Car career. His longest previous streak was 11 in a row coming in the 1995-96 seasons.

* Sebastien Bourdais has been running at the finish of each of the 12 events this season and is the only driver to do so this year. Remarkably, since 1956, only four drivers have started and been running at the finish of every race on the schedule. Jimmy Vasser is most recent driver to accomplish the feat in his 1996 championship season. The others are Al Unser Jr. (1992), A.J. Foyt (1963) and Jim McElreath (1963). He has also completed all but one of the scheduled laps this year, and is in line to join Foyt as the only driver to do so.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Nelson Philippe , Charles Zwolsman , Timo Glock , Jim McElreath , A.J. Foyt , Cristiano da Matta