Bruno Junqueira sets new track record in winning Australia CART provisional pole. SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia - (October 25, 2002) -Bruno Junqueira ( ...
Bruno Junqueira sets new track record in winning Australia CART provisional pole.
SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia - (October 25, 2002) -Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) may not have a CART FedEx Championship Series title to chase any more but he showed that he wasn't just going through the motions on a sunny Friday afternoon in Surfers Paradise, Australia.
Relegated to leading a charge for second place in the standings after Cristiano da Matta (#1 Caltex/Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) sealed the title in Miami, Junqueira came out in front of a Friday crowd of 60,340 to stake his claim on the $500,000 runner-up prize by winning the provisional pole for Sunday's Honda Indy 300 in record-setting fashion.
Junqueira put up a lap of 1:31.515 (109.949 mph/176.946 km/h) to eclipse the previous record lap of 1:31.703 set in 1999 by Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and wrest the provisional pole away from Franchitti's Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). Junqueira's run not only earned him his fourth front-row starting spot of the season, but also gave him another championship point, boosting his total to 144 on the year and widening his gap in the chase for second place to 15 over Franchitti.
The Brazilian was one of the last drivers to take to the course in the qualifying session, but made his time count in a session that was stopped by three separate red-flag periods. The qualifying had to be extended to give the drivers their 30 minutes of guaranteed green-flag time, and Junqueira used every bit of it to set his mark, carding his top lap with less than four minutes to go. He pulled into the pits instead of taking the one final flying lap that he was entitled to, but survived the last-minute volleys of da Matta and teammate Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) to take the top spot.
Junqueira's performance eclipsed a stellar session for Tracy, who actually posted a pair of laps that were better than Franchitti's old track record around the 2.795-mile street course, but would settle for the second spot with a best time of 1:31.575 (109.877 mph/176.830 km/h). If Tracy can make the run hold up for second after tomorrow's final qualifying, it will mark the fourth time this year that the 1995 Australia winner will start from the second spot.
Dixon would post a lap that would set him into the third spot on the provisional grid, making the trip in 1:32.143 (109.200 mph/175.740 km/h). Dixon will be looking to hold onto that spot in Saturday's final qualifying, a placing that would allow the New Zealand native to start in the second row or better in three of the last four races.
The sun-baked Surfers Paradise crowd got their money's worth from the drop of the green flag as 2000 Gold Coast winner Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) roared out first and put up a standard for the rest of the field to shoot at. Half of the 18-car field was already posting times before five minutes had elapsed in the session, and Tracy took just five minutes longer before breaking the track record.
Tracy's mark barely held up however, as Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun his car in Turn One, just after Tracy had flashed across the start/finish line to post his time. Vasser's red flag would cost him a strong lap and send him to his backup car, but the Californian was undaunted and would rebound to post a competitive 1:32.428 (108.863 mph/175.198 km/h) to place eighth.
Franchitti would later crash in Turn Seven and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard Bridgestone) would also bend his machine in Turn One to bring out red flags, but the last 11 minutes of the session were run without incident. The clear racetrack came as a big boost to da Matta, who had pulled his car into the Turn Three runoff at one point in the session, as the 2002 title winner took his No. 1 machine from 17th to fourth in the last minutes of qualifying. Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) came back to round out the top five after running in the top three of the morning practice session while early leader Fernandez would put up of lap of 1:32.301 (109.013 mph/175.439 km/h) to place sixth.
The Team Rahal duo of Vasser and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Office Depot Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was next on the grid with two-time Australia polewinner Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) placing ninth ahead of Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), who rounded out the top 10.
The final grid will be set with another qualifying session on Saturday (shown live on SPEED Channel at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time Friday night), establishing the order for Sunday's 70-lap Honda Indy 300.
CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE PROVISIONALQUALIFIER QUOTES
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It was a pretty exciting session for me really. I waited to get on the track for a little while and I came out when there was a red flag - and then another red flag. But I'm quite pleased to be on pole here in Australia. Tomorrow we'll have to see what the wind will be like and how much rubber is out on the course. We'll just have to adjust and see what happens tomorrow."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): (On qualifying well here in the past and what it would mean to be the first repeat winner) "I would like it, that's for sure. This is a track I've always done well at. It's a track that you can push the car to the limit. On some of the street courses we race at, you have to be a little bit more conservative and more careful. This track is very fast for a street circuit and you can really get after it. I like that."
SCOTT DIXON (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "You know I have to say that Bruno did a good job. I felt as if we had just as good of a car as he did, but we encountered braking problems that really hurt us."
* Bruno Junqueira's record-breaking run marks just the second time all season that an existing CART track record had been broken in qualifying. Cristiano da Matta set a new Vancouver qualifying mark in the Round 10 event.
* The CART drivers will be wearing a yellow ribbon on their cars this weekend to help observe and remember the Australian victims of the terrorist attacks in Bali.
* Bruno Junqueira's Friday effort that guaranteed him a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race marks the ninth time this season that he has started in the top three of an event.
* Michel Jourdain Jr. has scored points in every race this season, but has often done it by coming through the field. Friday's provisional placing of seventh would mark the first time since the season opener in Monterrey that he would start higher than 10th if he can back it up tomorrow.