CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio: Saturday qualifying report

Paul Tracy holds off charge from rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to claim fifth Cart Champ Car Pole of the Season LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 9, 2003) - Paul Tracy ( ...

Paul Tracy holds off charge from rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to claim fifth Cart Champ Car Pole of the Season

LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 9, 2003) - Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has made 10 CART Champ Car starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course throughout his stellar career, but had yet to add the course to one of his 24 victories or one of his 17 poles.

That all changed on a cloudy Lexington, Ohio Saturday as Tracy waited for nearly half of the 40-minute qualifying session to expire before going out and putting up the best lap of the day, claiming his fifth Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford pole of the season. Tracy will lead the field to the green for the 18th time of his career after carding a time of 1:07.058 (121.220 mph) to nip a pair of series rookies in final qualifying for Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.

Tracy not only won the pole and the right to start on the point tomorrow, but he also took another small step toward reclaiming the series lead by taking his second championship point of the weekend, closing to within a single point of Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). After losing the points lead last week despite hanging five wins on the board, Tracy now trails Junqueira 164-163 in the title hunt. After Geoff Boss (#11 Cross Pens Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made the only qualifying attempt through the first 20 minutes of the session, Tracy went out on his third lap and earned the time that would eventually give him the pole.

The qualifying leaders were separated by a scant .016 seconds after the 40-minute session with CART Champ Car Ladder System graduate Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) earning the best qualifying result of his rookie Champ Car season after putting up a time of 1:07.074 (121.192 mph). Hunter-Reay's run yielded the best starting spot for a Reynard of the 2003 season and the best since last season when Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) claimed pole in a Reynard en route to a Mid-Ohio victory.

Hunter-Reay scored his fastest time on his final lap of the session, getting across the line just in the nick of the time as Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out a red flag and ended the qualifying by sliding off course and into the Turn 11 tires. The red flag ended the session two minutes early and likely prevented more movement in the lineup as many drivers were on their final flying laps.

Rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it two rookies in the top three by taking the third spot on tomorrow's grid. Bourdais negotiated the 12-turn Mid-Ohio course in a time of 1:07.130 (121.090 mph) to take the starting spot on the inside of the second row, marking the third time this season that he has started in the top three. After everyone waited for the track to pick up some grip, it only took a few minutes for times to start dropping. Bourdais was the first to make a big move, climbing into the second spot after five minutes of running and would hold on to secure the third spot. Behind Bourdais came the driver for locally-based Team Rahal as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his best-ever Mid-Ohio starting spot as he carded the fourth-best time of the day. Jourdain gives the Rahal squad its best Mid-Ohio grid position since the 2000 season with his fourth-place run, putting up a time of 1:07.236 (120.900 mph).

Defending Mid-Ohio champion Carpentier rounded out the top five with a time of 1:07.296 (120.792), giving him the fifth spot by only .004 seconds over points leader Junqueira. The Road America winner improved five spots over his first-round qualifying effort and will start in the top six for the ninth time this season. 2-2-2-2 Tracy Takes Mid-Ohio Pole

The day was not as bright for Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who ended Friday's qualifying in the second spot but ended up seventh on the final grid after posting an effort of 1:07.477 (120.468 mph). He will join Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the fourth row, keeping Servia's streak intact as the Spaniard is the only driver in the series to have qualified in the top 10 in every event this season. Servia's run of top-10 qualifying runs is the best in the series since 2002 champion Cristiano da Matta strung 24 straight top-10 efforts together between the 2001 and '02 seasons.

Dominguez will start ninth despite bringing out the red flag at the end of the session and losing his best time while Portland winner Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will round out the top 10.

Tomorrow's Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will get the green flag from starter J.D. Wilbur at 2 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen live on SPEED Channel.

TOP THREE QUOTES:

Paul Tracy:

"Really, I just had a clear track at that moment in time. There was nobody in front of me. I went pretty hard on the out lap and the second lap, and I felt the tires were just up, maybe a little bit low, maybe a pound low. So it wasn't optimum. But, you know, I was looking at my splits the whole time. I was gaining time - up, up, up, every section. I just stayed with it the whole lap. I usually don't go until my fourth lap, but I decided to go on my third. I went through turn one just to feel what it was like, and I was up a 10th and a half already, so I stayed with it the rest of the lap and did the time."

Ryan Hunter-Reay:

"I mean, this place is so much shorter, it feels like a slot car track compared to the Barber Dodge car. It's unbelievable. It's definitely a rollercoaster ride. It's a lot of fun. When the car is working right, it's even that much better. We were the only car that didn't test here for the big Mid-Ohio test. I just really built up into it this weekend, slowly but surely, you know, gradually built into it, didn't rush anything, and the team didn't rush anything. We just worked on it together calmly, put the car on the track at the right time."

Sebastien Bourdais:

"We all know there's chances of showers and thunderstorms and everything (on Sunday). I don't know. I feel pretty happy with the car in the rain conditions. I think we have a really good setup on dry conditions, and I'm not really bothered about this race. For sure, it's going to be the second hardest race of the year after Cleveland, and it's going to be also a question of consistency for this race, to keep up the whole distance."

NOTEWORTHY:

Paul Tracy's pole is the 18th of his Champ Car career and ties him with Mid-Ohio favorite Bobby Rahal for fifth on the all-time CART list. It also puts him 11th on the all-time Champ Car list, dating back to 1930, and leaves him just one behind the legendary Rex Mays and Danny Sullivan for ninth.

Oriol Servia is trying to become the first driver since Mauricio Gugelmin in 1997 to qualify in the top 10 in every race during a Champ Car season. Servia has started in the top 10 in each of the first 13 races this season and will start eighth Sunday.

Patrick Carpentier will make his 121st career CART Champ Car start Sunday, tying him with Bryan Herta for 20th on the all-time CART list.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Mario Dominguez , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Geoff Boss