CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Saturday qualifying report

Sebastien Bourdais sets new track record in tense qaulifying duel for pole position in Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. MONTERREY, Mexico (March 22, 2003) -- The country of Mexico has a rich and storied boxing heritage with World ...

Sebastien Bourdais sets new track record in tense qaulifying duel for pole position in Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

MONTERREY, Mexico (March 22, 2003) -- The country of Mexico has a rich and storied boxing heritage with World Champions dotted throughout the record books but the slugfest put on by the Champ Cars Saturday in final qualifying for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix rivaled anything that Julio Cesar Chavez ever performed in the ring.

The final qualifying session for Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford was a battle from the opening bell as it took local favorite Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) just four minutes to leap to the top of the charts. He would not stay in the number one position long however as Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) began throwing haymakers at each other in a personal fight that would see the pole change four times between them before Bourdais sealed the deal.

The French rookie stamped his name on the record books in taking the pole, setting a new track record of 1:14.938 (101.076 mph/162.665 kph) to earn his second pole in as many Champ Car starts. The feat marks only the second time in series history that a driver has won the pole in his first two series starts, matching the feat accomplished by Nigel Mansell in his rookie year of 1993. The pole duplicates his effort from the season opener at St. Petersburg where the reigning FIA F3000 champion won the pole and led the first 30 laps. The new track record breaks the standard set two years ago in the inaugural Monterrey event of 1:15.244 (100.665 mph) set by Kenny Brack.

"After the practice sessions, we were pretty happy this morning, but it's always hard to imagine that you can do such a lap during qualifying," Bourdais said. "Yesterday, it was really difficult to handle the car. The team did a fantastic job. The car today was really good. It's such a big surprise all the time to be so much on the pace. I just can hope it will be like this all season long."

While Bourdais and the rest of the field were battling for the pole, Friday qualifying leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was sitting on the pit wall, secure in the knowledge that he would start in the second spot for Sunday's 85-lap event, earning the spot by virtue of his Friday run. He and his Player's squad would spend the session working on their car after Tracy had an accident late in the morning practice, hitting the Turn Three curbs and knocking his oil cooler off of the car, sending him spinning on his own oil and into the wall.

"I think it's frustrating at Team Player's because we had a spin this morning, damaged the bottom of the tub on my car, punched a hole through the bottom," Tracy said. "We weren't able to repair the car. We would have had to have taken out the spare car for qualifying. That would delete our time from yesterday. The only logical choice was to sit out."

Servia completed his allotment of 15 qualifying laps and appeared to have the third spot sewn up, but saw what would have been his best-ever Champ Car starting spot snatched away as Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) swooped in and took the third position with a lap of 1:15.437 (100.407 mph/161.589 kph) on his final trip around the 2.104-mile road circuit. Tagliani will start third in Monterrey for the second consecutive season and gives the new Rocketsports Racing squad a second-row grid position in just its second Champ Car start.

"I'm very excited for the guys on the Johnson Control team because they worked really hard before the first race, in between St. Pete and this race, I know that they worked really hard to make sure that we have a backup car for this race," Tagliani said. "It's just a good boost for everyone on this team."

Servia would settle for the fourth spot with a time of 1:15.476 (100.355 mph/161.505 kph), a performance that matches his best-ever Champ Car qualifying effort as he had previously qualified fourth in Nazareth in 2001. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the home contingent of Mexican drivers by taking the fifth spot despite suffering front-wing damage during the session, allowing him to share the third row with Fernandez, who was the last driver to break into the 1:15 range on the day.

Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had held the third spot briefly during the qualifying run, but would settle for the seventh position after a brief spin. Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would take the eighth spot after he withdrew his Friday time and qualified in the #55X machine. Dominguez ran 1.6 seconds quicker in the backup car but moved no higher in the standings, as both his Friday and Saturday times left him eighth, which is his best starting position in his 21 career races.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard brigade with a ninth-place run while Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would round out the top 10. Monteiro also withdrew his time from Friday in favor of his backup machine and climbed six places on the charts.

Sunday's 85-lap event will get underway at 2:30 Eastern Time and can be seen live on SPEED Channel. Fans can also follow the action live via www.champcarworldseries.com.

TOP THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:  Yeah, it's true, it's really a slippery track,
especially to begin.  But the grip is improving all through the weekend.
It will be really good tomorrow.  Already today it was better.

PAUL TRACY: I just want to do the best job that I can and take each race one by one. You know, if we can finish well tomorrow, have a good day, finish on the podium, that will get us closer to a championship.

ALEX TAGLIANI: We want to be prepared for tomorrow. It's a very unusual track. The track seems to go faster and faster in the race compared with other tracks, you're always going slower in qualifying. This one you can almost do faster lap times in the race than qualifying. Hopefully we'll have a good car and we'll be there at the end.

NOTEWORTHY:

* Sebastien Bourdais' second pole in his first two series starts matches Nigel Mansell as the only driver to win poles in his first two races. Mansell won the pole in Surfers Paradise in his first race in 1993, but withdrew from the next race at Phoenix after an accident in practice. He then came back to win the pole for the next race in Long Beach, which was his second-ever start.

* Paul Tracy will start in the first row for tomorrow's race marking the first time that he has started in the front row in consecutive races since the Gateway and Milwaukee races in 1997.

* Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier all sat out the Saturday qualifying session, standing on their Friday times to determine their starting spots. Vasser missed the session after punching a hole in his tub during practice, Tracy had contact at the end of practice that damaged his car while Carpentier missed final qualifying because of illness. The Player's driver, who was third in provisional qualifying, was advised by his team to rest and recuperate for Sunday's race.

* In his first-ever Champ Car start, and without the benefit of any previous testing, former Minardi F1 driver Alex Yoong improved nearly six seconds over his Friday time during final qualifying and will start Sunday's race from the 17th position.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Nigel Mansell , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain