Tracy takes pole in changing conditions; leads top six Lola drivers at Portland. Volatile weather conditions dictated the pace of qualifying today for the 20th annual G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. Seeing a storm on its way to...
Tracy takes pole in changing conditions; leads top six Lola drivers at Portland.
Volatile weather conditions dictated the pace of qualifying today for the 20th annual G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. Seeing a storm on its way to the Oregon locale, the 19 Champ Car drivers needed to put up an early benchmark lap before the weather deteriorated, which it did 22 minutes into the 40-minute session.
The #3 Team Player's Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone squad sent Paul Tracy out on the 1.969-mile circuit at the start and the Canadian delivered quick time of the weekend just four laps in, of 58.793 seconds (120.565mph). This gave Tracy his 15th Champ Car pole position but "I didn't expect to go that fast that soon. We knew the rain would come soon and the goal was to get 3-4 laps in early then come in for a second run later. This track is funny," he explained. "It's at its best at the start of qualifying when there's no rubber down in conditions like these."
Michel Jourdain Jr. improved his Friday effort in the #9 Gigante Lola to 58.838 seconds (120.473mph). Already guaranteed a front-row slot after taking provisional pole, Jourdain was "surprised how fast times dropped but it really didn't affect me. I'm very happy to start on the front row. We've been very fast all weekend."
Adrian Fernandez earned third on the grid with a lap of 58.948 seconds (120.248mph) in the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Lola. "I thought I had a chanced at pole because the track improved. There was a lot more grip when the sun was out at the start of qualifying." Sebastien Bourdais, who starts fourth in the #2 Lilly Lola said: "I'm happy considering where we were yesterday (9th), but frustrated since I feel I have a car that could be on the front row."
Alex Tagliani earned fifth starting spot in the #33 Johnson Controls Lola at 59.061 seconds (120.018mph). "The car was fast but we were too conservative," he said. Oriol Servia starts sixth in the #20 Visteon Lola after posting a lap of 59.218 seconds (119.700mph) around the 12-turn road circuit. "The car was well balanced, but we just had a little understeer that cost us some time," the Catalan noted.
Tracy, who has never performed particularly well at this Pacific Northwest track, knows the value of pole position. "Track position is so important here. If the weather mix continues it doesn't matter where you start," but starting at the front is far better in rainy conditions like those the Champ Cars have experienced this weekend.
CBS has live flag-to-flag coverage of the 100-lap G.I. Joe's 200 at 3:30pm EDT.