Toronto, Ontario, July 14, 2001 Alex Tagliani of Team Player's gave the home crowd at CNE Place plenty to cheer about on Saturday as he delivered the top performance by a Canadian driver by clocking the fifth fastest lap in qualifying for...
Toronto, Ontario, July 14, 2001 Alex Tagliani of Team Player's gave the home crowd at CNE Place plenty to cheer about on Saturday as he delivered the top performance by a Canadian driver by clocking the fifth fastest lap in qualifying for Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto, the first of two Canadian stops on the 2001 FedEx CART Championship schedule.
Tagliani's Row 3 qualifying effort was all the more impressive because he earned that starting position while running laps in the first group of qualifiers, a session in which there is usually less tire grip because little rubber has been laid down on the track. Tagliani registered the second fastest time in his group covering the 1.755-mile street course in 57.997 seconds (108.937 mph), a mere 7 one-hundredths of a second slower than Group 1 leader Tony Kanaan of Brazil.
Only three drivers in the second group were faster than Tagliani, who produced his best qualifying effort of the season. They included pole-winner Gil de Ferran of Brazil (57.703 seconds, 109.492 mph), his teammate and fellow countryman Helio Castroneves and Sweden's Kenny Brack. Tagliani's teammate and fellow Canadian driver Patrick Carpentier qualified on the outside of Row 6, while Paul Tracy, the only other Canadian driver in the CART series, will start from the outside of Row 4.
"I'm happy everything turned out for the best," said Tagliani. "When I got out of the car after our group had finished the session, I was hoping for a top-10 position on the grid, but as things turned out, I was able to get into the top 5, and that's way better. If there's one place I want to win, it's here in Toronto."
Tagliani, who will now be able to move into the faster qualifying group for the next road-course event at Mid-Ohio next month as a result of being in the top two of his group today, said the Team Player's crew did an outstanding job getting the car ready for the qualifying session. "The crew fine-tuned the shocks and they were right on target," he explained. "It was a very good car for qualifying, but we will have to make some changes for tomorrow because the car has a tendency to get loose during the race."
The first group's qualifying session was red-flagged twice, reducing the time to attempt to run quick laps to 20 minutes. The shortened session was a factor for Carpentier, who had to cope with some car looseness in some of the turns. During his last stop in the pits, Team Player's tried a different set-up in an effort to improve the car's handling, but time ran out before the changes could be put to the test.
"I'm a little disappointed but starting 12th isn't too bad," remarked Carpentier. "Last year, I started 17th and finished 7th, so if I do the math, I should have a good race tomorrow. Seriously, though, I pushed as hard as the car would let me. At the end, I came very close to the wall because the track is quite bumpy entering Turn 8. As for the race tomorrow, I'm quite optimistic. Anything can happen, and we've seen quite a few times this year where drivers have come from farther back than 12th on the grid to be right in contention."
Racing fans can follow the progress of Team Player's throughout the weekend by logging on to the team's web site at www.teamplayers.ca. They can also watch the 95-lap race live on the Global network starting at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.