SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS POWERS TO HIS FIFTH BRIDGESTONE POLE POSITION OF THE 2006 CHAMP CAR SEASON, LEADS QUALIFYING FOR SAN JOSE EVENT SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 29, 2006) -- The newly-revamped street course that winds through the center of San Jose has...
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS POWERS TO HIS FIFTH BRIDGESTONE POLE POSITION OF THE 2006 CHAMP CAR SEASON, LEADS QUALIFYING FOR SAN JOSE EVENT
SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 29, 2006) -- The newly-revamped street course that winds through the center of San Jose has been vastly improved over last year, with the repairs and changes yielding times yesterday that were nearly five full seconds quicker than those of a year ago. Times fell even lower in today's final round of qualifying for the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow -- but the man at the top of the order gave a repeat performance from last year's inaugural Champ Car show.
Defending San Jose winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start Sunday's 97-lap race from the pole as he did a year ago, taking his fifth Bridgestone Pole Position of the season and the 23rd of his career, setting a new track record of 48.989 seconds (106.040 mph) around the 1.443-mile street circuit.
Bourdais used his first set of Bridgestone Potenzas to full advantage, finding clear track that allowed him to lower his time gradually over a series of four laps, eventually logging the only 48-second lap of the weekend to claim the pole. He actually took the pole from Friday leader Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on his fifth lap, and posted his best time on his seventh trip around the course.
Tracy ended up second by virtue of leading Friday's session, even though he ran just the fourth-best lap of Saturday's final round. The Canadian star ended up with an official time of 49.810 seconds (104.292 mph), that time going in the books when Tracy was penalized with the loss of his fastest lap after being found guilty of blocking. The Forsythe Championship Racing driver will start in the front row for the second time this season, gridding on the outside of the front row in tomorrow's event.
Tracy's teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carded the second-best lap of the day and will start third after clocking in with a best time of 49.264 seconds (105.448 mph). Allmendinger used the last of his 15-lap allotment to post his best time, improving by nearly two-tenths of a second over his last five laps. The Californian has started in the top four in each event this season, the only Champ Car driver this season to accomplish the feat, and has 10 top-four starts in a row dating back to the 2005 season.
As he has done in each of the last three qualifying sessions, Tracy was the first car on course, looking to take advantage of some clear track. He lowered his Friday-leading time on his sixth pass and completed his entire opening stint before the remainder of the championship contenders rolled onto the course. Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made the most noticeable jump over the start of the session, running second after ten minutes of the session. The leader in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, Power's run was made even more impressive by the fact that he never turned a wheel in Friday qualifying after a morning crash.
Bourdais then came out and vaulted to the top of the charts while Allmendinger came out and logged the second best time just before rolling in for a tire change. Meanwhile behind the top three, Power led a fierce battle that included Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro/Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the fight for a second-row grid position.
Servia climbed to fourth with 10 minutes to run in the session, only to see da Matta's lap of 49.659 seconds (104.609 mph) drop him back a position three minutes later. Meanwhile, Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was trying to get back in the hunt after a crash in the pre-session practice session forced his RuSPORT squad to hurriedly prepare the backup car for final qualifying. Wilson got out on course and was just getting his tires up to temperature when the red flag came out for a Mario Dominguez (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) impact with a tire barrier in Turn Six.
The Champ Car Safety Team did its usual quick work in getting the Dominguez car on its way, leaving the field with three minutes to get back up to speed. Wilson used his last lap to improve slightly, but ended up earning the 12th position on tomorrow's grid after a lap of 50.341 seconds (103.192 mph).
Da Matta ended up in the fourth spot, marking his highest starting position of the season, putting him one spot ahead of Servia, who grids in the top five for the fourth consecutive event. Power held on for the sixth spot to secure the role as the highest starting rookie in Sunday's race while Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came on late in the session to start seventh. After not starting in the top 10 through the first six races, Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has now had three straight top-ten grid positions and will start eighth tomorrow.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE QUALIFIERS
A.J. Allmendinger: Yeah, I mean, I think it was a really good day for the whole Forsythe Indeck team. Congratulations to Sebastien. That was an amazing lap. My car on the Bridgestone blacks is really good. After we used the reds yesterday, I did my first run on the blacks and was really quick, was ready to put on the Bridgestone reds, was excited about it. When we put them on, it just seemed like we could never get the tires to temperature. That's all I had in the car.
Paul Tracy: We're pretty happy. Obviously we would have liked to have been on pole, but we didn't have enough today for that. We were fortunate enough to lock up the front row yesterday. We didn't have to use our tires too hard today because we were trying to save them for tomorrow. Nobody seemed to want to let anybody go by, so I wasn't letting anybody by. We ended up with a penalty for holding up another driver. You know, just kind of the end of the qualifying kind of deal out there.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think it's been a very good day overall. This morning, the McDonald's car was a lot better than yesterday. We fixed most of the problems we had in the braking. Bridgestone red tires fixed the rest for qualifying. Very happy with the way things went. As you said, it was a really good lap. But it was a very good first run, I'd say, because it didn't come like one lap. It was building up slowly and steadily, without making any mistakes. It was a few 10ths every lap. It seems like the more I was running, the more the car was giving me.
Today's Bridgestone Pole Position is the 23rd of Sebastien Bourdais' four-year Champ Car career, and moves him into a tie with former series champion Johnny Rutherford for eighth on the all-time list.
PKV Racing's Oriol Servia has qualified in the top five in each of the last four events, marking the first time in the four-year history of the team that one of its drivers has started in the top five in four consecutive events.
Holding second place in the series points, Justin Wilson will start 12th in tomorrow's race, marking his worst starting spot since he gridded 16th in Cleveland last season, a string of 17 straight events.
Will Power's sixth-place starting spot for Sunday's event is the best of his young career. He matches Dan Clarke's Portland performance for the best starting position by a rookie this year.
Paul Tracy starts in the front row tomorrow, marking the first time that he has started on the front row in consecutive events since the Cleveland/Toronto stretch from last season.