CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Saturday qualifying report

Justin Wilson Overcomes Injured Wrist To Earn Pole For Champ Car MEXICO CITY (November 11, 2006) -- Wearing a brace on his rapidly-healing wrist, Justin Wilson ( ...

Justin Wilson Overcomes Injured Wrist To Earn Pole For Champ Car

MEXICO CITY (November 11, 2006) -- Wearing a brace on his rapidly-healing wrist, Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) could have easily passed for an injured basketball player as he negotiated the paddock on a cloudy Saturday at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

But once the engines fired for today's final round of qualifying for the Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex, Wilson proved himself every bit the racer as he set a new track record in taking the Bridgestone Pole Award for tomorrow's Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season finale.

Wilson stormed around the 2.774-mile road circuit in a time of 1:24.801 (117.763 mph) to take the pole, becoming the first driver since Bobby Unser (1980-81) to win consecutive poles in Mexico City. Wilson started from pole a year ago and blitzed the field, leading 65 of 70 laps to score the victory. The RuSPORT driver shook off the ill effects of the broken wrist that sidelined him for the Australia event two weeks ago, and joined such luminaries as Mark Donohue, Ted Horn and Mauricio Gugelmin as Champ Car drivers to have won four poles.

The third-year Champ Car star sealed the pole on his seventh lap of the day, but then had to watch as three-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took two final shots at upending him as the session closed, only to come up less than two-tenths of a second short. Bourdais carded the second-best time of the day with a 1:24.986 (117.506 mph) clocking, and will start from the front row for the seventh consecutive race.

The session was the polar opposite of yesterday's frenetic outing as only eight of 18 drivers had managed to better their Friday times through the first 20 minutes of the session. But times started dropping as the last minutes of the session ticked off, as teams bolted on their last sets of red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas for a final run at the pole.

Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made the most of his final minutes, vaulting into the third spot on the grid with a time of 1:25.491 (116.812 mph). The result maintains a nice streak for the Brazilian, who has started in the top three in each of his four starts on the Mexico City road course.

For the first time this season, first-year drivers will start in the fourth through sixth spots led by Australia polesitter Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Power scored the fourth position on tomorrow's grid by virtue of his Friday time, as he was one of only three drivers that were unable to make up any ground in today's final qualifying. The leader in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, he clinches the rookie award with a sixth-place finish in tomorrow's event.

Ryan Briscoe (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made a strong charge at Power and scored the best starting spot of his very young Champ Car career, earning the fifth position with a time of 1:25.643 (116.605 mph). Briscoe will start alongside fellow rookie Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Row Three tomorrow after Clarke carded a time of 1:25.942 (116.199 mph) to claim the sixth position on the grid.

A pair of seven-year veterans will chase the rookies to the green flag tomorrow as PKV Racing's Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make up the fourth row. Tagliani was the main attraction of the early part of today's final round of qualifying, taking the track by himself at the start of the day, lopping more than a second from his Friday clocking on just his second lap.

Mexican rookie David Martinez (#3 Telmex/INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued his impressive debut weekend by taking the ninth spot on the grid, logging in with a time of 1:26.146 (115.924 mph). Martinez ran just seven laps in today's final qualifying session -- as did Bourdais -- but made them count as he became the first driver this season to make his Champ Car debut by qualifying in the top 10.

Martinez will be joined in the fifth row by Australia winner Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who rounded out the top 10 with a top time of 1:26.278 (115.747 mph). He will grid one spot ahead of local hero Mario Dominguez (#8 Pemex/GICSA/Del Valle Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will take the green flag from 11th. He will head into the first alongside Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will look to extend his seven-race streak of consecutive top-10 finishes.

Tomorrow's Champ Car season finale will cover 66 laps around the demanding 17-turn layout, and begins at 2 p.m. local time. The race can be seen live on SPEED Channel beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern Time, with live timing and scoring along with in-car audio and video available via the Race Director feature available on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:

Justin Wilson: Yeah, the car feels very good. It's very stable. That's what we've been working on. I thank the team and also Bridgestone. The tires worked fantastic. The alternate tires were very good. This is definitely going to be one of the most cherished trophies I have because today was quite emotional. Under the circumstances, with all the rumors flying around, and also with what happened in Australia, it just feels good to come out on top.

Sebastien Bourdais: Well, I thought we would be sitting in the middle, to be honest, after the first run. The McDonald's car felt really, really well-balanced. I was very happy. We made a change to kind of keep up with the track conditions, anticipate the understeer which was going to build up. Maybe something happened in the rear damper. We need to look into it. I definitely felt a big, big switch between the two. I was very surprised. That's what racing is all about. Sometimes you get caught. There's not much you can do about it. You just have to give a good look into it. Maybe we'll find something, maybe we won't find something. We'll adjust accordingly.

Bruno Junqueira: I think my Newman/Haas car is pretty good here. It has been fast for all the days. Qualifying, the first run, I don't know, I made a mistake on my second lap. I thought that was the last lap. I was going to do three laps. But I was still P2, very close to Sebastien. I thought I had a shot for the pole.I think this track, you can see the top three here. I'm Brazilian, I'm proud to be up here. But this is like a road course, the kind of track that you are born racing on in Brazil and Europe. It's like a European-style track. You can see drivers that always drive on those fast, high-speed and road course usually does well here. So I love this kind of track.

NOTEWORTHY

* David Martinez is the first rookie to make his Champ Car debut by earning a top-10 starting spot since last year's season opener, when eventual Rookie of the Year Timo Glock and Ronnie Bremer each did it in Long Beach.

* Tomorrow's Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex was declared a sellout today by track promoter OCESA as all grandstand seats were sold. There are still general admission tickets available for the race, which is expected to see well over 100,000 fans for the season finale.

* Three rookie drivers qualified in the top six for tomorrow's event, marking the first time that first-year drivers have done so since 2003 when Tiago Monteiro (2nd), Sebastien Bourdais (4th) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (5th) turned the trick right here in Mexico City.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Ryan Briscoe , David Martinez , Ronnie Bremer , Charles Zwolsman , Timo Glock , Will Power , Mark Donohue , Dan Clarke