Da Matta pips Brack for Shell 300 pole. Top five qualifiers ride with Lola. At the close of provisional Friday qualifying, Cristiano da Matta declared his desire to move up one spot when Saturday time trials were complete, taking pole position...
Da Matta pips Brack for Shell 300 pole.
Top five qualifiers ride with Lola.
At the close of provisional Friday qualifying, Cristiano da Matta declared his desire to move up one spot when Saturday time trials were complete, taking pole position for Sunday's Shell 300, feature race of the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Da Matta got his wish on the 4th of his eight timed laps, taking top slot in his #6 Chevron Lola/Toyota with a lap of 69.473 seconds (115.970mph) for his first CART pole position. Brack settled for second on the grid in his #12 Target Lola/Toyota, improving to 69.575 seconds (115.800mph) on the 2.238-mile road course. Teammate Bruno Junqueira was third in the #4 Target Lola/Toyota at 69.759 seconds (115.498mph), taking his fast time with 25 minutes left in the hour-long session.
The session did not lack controversy. Da Matta lost power with nine minutes remaining and was urged to continue back to the pits and not lose the quick lap. "I was trying to stay off-line but my guys told me to come in quickly. I'm pretty happy to be on pole and lucky the time held to the end. Some guys may be mad that I put oil on the track. It was a tense situation." Brack wasn't pleased, nor was team owner Chip Ganassi. "You really can't go faster with slick conditions like that. We have a chance to do well tomorrow," Brack noted. "It's difficult to overtake here, so starting up front is important." Junqueira admitted he "played it safe because it's consistency that is important", rather than trying for a quick time at the close.
Tony Kanaan continues to gain confidence in his #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Lola/Honda, securing the fourth starting spot at 70.043sec/115.026mph. The failure of his wheel speed sensor and, therefore, his traction control stopped Kanaan from posting a faster lap speed toward the close, but he was the quickest Honda qualifier. "If you told me I was going to start fourth in only my second day in the Lola, I would not have believed it," Kanaan declared. "We've definitely got a competitive car." Christian Fittipaldi starts fifth in the #11 Lilly Lola/Toyota at 70.184sec/114.795mph, quietly knocking a couple of tenths from his Friday qualifying lap, also good for fifth.
The weather conditions were vastly improved from Friday, with less wind and warmer temperatures. Air temps went from 73-79 degrees, while the track temps were in the 116-120-degree range. Similar conditions are expected for Sunday's 87-lap contest, which begins at 1:30pm PDT and will be televised live on Speed TV.