CHAMPCAR/CART: Newman/Haas grabs front row in San Jose

Newman/Haas driver Sebastien Bourdais established a new single-lap qualifying record on the streets of San Jose today and will start from pole for Sunday's Champ Car World Series race. The pole is the sixteenth time Bourdais has taken the top...

Newman/Haas driver Sebastien Bourdais established a new single-lap qualifying record on the streets of San Jose today and will start from pole for Sunday's Champ Car World Series race.

The pole is the sixteenth time Bourdais has taken the top spot in Champ Car. The defending series champion gets one championship point for the accomplishment, stretching his lead to 22 points over Paul Tracy.

"Well, it's not been an easy session for us. A damper failure in the first 15 minutes so we couldn't go right away." Bourdais said. "I got a bit too excited and made one mistake, collected myself and made it happen, but barely."

Bourdais' time of 54.243 (96.101 mph) was just .062 seconds ahead of teammate Oriol Servia who crossed the line at 54.305 (95.991 mph). The pair swapped the top spot several times on the 1.44-mile 9-turn course, until rookie Andrew Ranger brought out the last of three red flags to end the session. Starting in third is 2003 series champion Paul Tracy.

Tracy, who drives for the Indeck-Forsythe Racing Team, may have had the quickest car out there but couldn't find the room needed to get around cleanly. Earlier in the session, he stalled on-course bringing out a red flag. The penalty for stopping a qualifying session is the loss of fastest lap. Even with that penalty, Tracy was able to maintain close quarters with Servia and Bourdais.

"Trying to get a clear lap is everything", Tracy said. "I didn't get any help out there from Oriol, I got held up four times by him. The best laps that I had were the ones that I got held up so it's very frustrating."

"I'm quite happy for the team finishing one-two like last weekend; it's showing how strong the team is", Servia said. "It's 1.4 miles around and with so many cars out there it's easy to find traffic. I'm sorry for Paul but we were three-tenths quicker on those laps."

There was no qualifying on Friday as safety concerns kept the circuit closed during the morning. Due to the cancellation, Champ Car Race Control removed the lap restrictions from today's only round of qualifying, allowing the drivers to run as many laps as possible in pursuit of the pole instead of the normal 15 laps.

Servia held the pole early in the session, clocking in at 54.756, (95.201 mph). The mark only stood for a few minutes as Tracy pushed to the top. Bourdais made his way on track after many of the top cars had run four or five laps.

Ricardo Sperifico made heavy contact with a wall at the exit of turn 4 and brought out a red flag with just over 20 minutes to go. The right side of the car was destroyed, ending Sperafico's bid for a strong starting position.

Newman Haas racing had the field covered, Bourdais and Servia holding the top positions for the final ten minutes.

"Just a pretty good job from the whole team", said Bourdais. "Put it on the front row, it means a lot. It means the team is working really hard. And were both benefiting the hard work. So hopefully we keep up like that, have a long day tomorrow and a great show for the fans."

Rookie Timo Glock, leading the Roshfrans Rookie Of The Year standings, had a fine run to garner seventh, and finished as the last car to turn a lap under fifty-five seconds. Glock has an eight-point lead over Ranger for top rookie honors at the halfway point of the season.

One of two local favorites this weekend is RuSport driver A.J. Allmendinger. Allmendinger's time of 94.604 (95.466 mph) places him in fourth on the outside of row two next to Tracy.

Prior to the start of Saturday's racing, Champ Car added a chicane after turn two in order to slow the cars down going into the turn three hairpin. That addition was further enhanced by the reconfiguration of the turn one and turn two complex. During Friday practice rounds, the cars were running flat through that area at over 150 mph. The close confines of the walls made for a hazardous situation and Champ Car officials took action overnight.

The remainder of the top ten saw Mario Dominguez in the second Indeck-Forsythe car, followed by Nelson Philippe, Glock, Bjorn Wirdhiem, Justin Wilson, and another hometown favorite Jimmy Vasser.

Servia is competing in his sixth Champ Car season, has a couple of second place finishes to his credit, and looks forward to his maiden victory. When asked about teammate, Servia had nothing but admiration for the Frenchman. "I've said it before, he's the fastest driver on the planet. Hopefully, someday, number two will pass number one."

Over fifty thousand enthusiastic fans witnessed Bourdais history-making lap, bring the two-day total to 91,260. Sunday's race is expected to push the mark to over 150,000 for the three days.

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Series INDYCAR