CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Saturday qualifying report

NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S ORIOL SERVIA SCORES FIRST CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POLE POSITION IN FRONT OF A SATURDAY-RECORD CROWD OF 90,265 IN SUNNY SURFERS PARADISE SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 22, 2005) -- Oriol Servia ( ...

NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S ORIOL SERVIA SCORES FIRST CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POLE POSITION IN FRONT OF A SATURDAY-RECORD CROWD OF 90,265 IN SUNNY SURFERS PARADISE

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 22, 2005) -- Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) staved off elimination from the 2005 Champ Car title chase in grand style Saturday, blistering the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street course in 1:32.616 (108.642 mph) to score the first Bridgestone Pole Award of his Champ Car career.

Servia paced second-round qualifying for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 on a warm, sunny day on Australia's Gold Coast, shaving nearly a full second off of last year's polewinning time, scoring a championship point and keeping his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) from celebrating the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship for at least one more day.

Bourdais will start in the second spot for tomorrow's race, earning the position by virtue of leading Friday's qualifying, marking the third consecutive event in which the NHR machines have started 1-2. Servia made up one championship point on Bourdais to close the gap to 67 in the season standings, but Bourdais will clinch his second consecutive Champ Car title simply by taking the green flag in Sunday's 57-lap race.

Servia served notice to the Saturday-record crowd of 90,265 early that he was serious about staying in the title hunt, leading the pre-qualifying practice session with the best time of the weekend. He jumped to the top of the time charts right after the green flag waved over the 35-minute qualifying session, vaulting to the pole on his second lap. Servia's run triggered a furious game of leapfrog atop the speed sheets as the entire 19-car field made quick work of a dry track. The pole position switched hands 11 times during the session with seven different drivers occupying the first slot on the timing and scoring monitor.

While Servia, Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) battled for early supremacy, Bourdais watched and waited on Pit Lane. On a day where the field wasted little time in getting on track, Bourdais waited nearly 15 minutes before becoming the final driver to enter the fray. Dominguez saw his spot atop the time charts ended by teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as Bourdais made his warmup laps, but warmup laps were all he would get initially as debris on the racing line caused a red flag.

The Champ Car Safety Team quickly solved the problem, sending everyone back into battle with 15 minutes left on the clock. Friday's trouble with cars shortcutting the various chicanes on the track forced Champ Car race stewards to install a new rule for Saturday, mandating that any car shortcutting the course would have to serve a drive-through penalty on the next lap. The rule worked as expected, cutting the number of violations well down from Friday's 66, but it did catch both Bourdais and Servia out soon after the session's restart. Both returned to the track after serving their penalties just in time to see 2002 Surfers winner Mario Dominguez reclaim the top spot on the charts, taking pole on his 11th lap and eventually lowering his time again on Lap 13 to 1:32.667 (108.582 mph).

Servia responded two minutes later with the lap that would eventually net him his first series pole, flashing across the line just as light wall contact would result in a suspension failure and the end of the day for Tracy. The 2003 series champion would settle for fifth place with a time of 1:32.976 (108.221 mph), which marks the 10th consecutive season that he has started in the top five at Surfers Paradise.

Meanwhile Bourdais ran into traffic that slowed his progress with three minutes to go, while da Matta climbed back into the fourth position on the grid with a time of 1:32.753 (108.482 mph). Servia had an anxious moment just as the checkered flag flew as his 750 hp Champ Car had consumed the last of its methanol, leaving him out of fuel. The Spaniard caught the problem in time and coasted his car into a safe haven, which kept him from bringing out a red flag that would have cost him his polewinning time.

As Servia pulled off track, dodging the rule-book bullet, his teammate flashed across the start/finish line just as the checkered flag waved, signaling the end of the qualifying session. Bourdais pounded around the 12-turn layout hoping to steal the pole on his last lap as he had done on Friday, and ran a time that would have beaten Servia, won him the pole and clinched the 2005 Champ Car World Series title. However, the timing computer correctly showed that Bourdais had crossed the line a scant 1.6 seconds after the checkered flag flew, negating his final lap and forcing him to settle for the second spot.

Dominguez will start third, matching his best starting spot of the 2005 season, while da Matta will grid fourth, one spot ahead of Tracy. The 2003 champ will start alongside protege A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who scored the sixth position ahead of teammate Justin Wilson (#9 SanDisk Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top-qualifying rookie of the day, earning the 10th spot on the grid with a time of 1:34.554 (106.415 mph).

Tomorrow's Lexmark Indy 300 will get underway at 1:15 p.m. local time (11:15 p.m. Saturday evening Eastern Time), and fans can follow all the action by logging onto the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

Mario Dominguez: We did a lot of changes on the car, improved it every time. At the end, I thought we had the pole there, then Oriol got it from us. With one corner to go, I guess you always say that, people always say that, but I was a 10th and a half up on my time, then I ran into Rodolfo at the very last corner and I lost it. Still good effort, but happy with the way the car is handling. It's a good starting position. Tomorrow we should be good for the race. Hopefully we can be quick.

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, I think it's typically a racetrack where the lap times are quick to start the race. I wouldn't be surprised actually if we end up matching these qualifying laps. As Al Speyer said from Bridgestone, we are significantly faster than last year. In 2003, I think the pole position lap without the tire matts on the chicanes was like 1:31.07, something like that. Getting really close. It was pretty fast today.

Oriol Servia: I think was three laps to go that I did that lap. I was happy. I still thought -- you know, there was still two laps. I thought I was going to be able to improve. One I didn't and the last one I ran out of fuel. Yesterday I was extremely (upset) with myself because I did one of my worst qualifyings ever. I think in 15 laps in qualifying, I was only able to do two, because all the others I was just making mistakes and going through the chicane straight, then driving through. I wasn't happy with myself yesterday. Today is much better.

NOTEWORTHY

Oriol Servia is the sixth different driver to win a pole this season and is the 168th in the history of the series to score a pole. It comes in his 97th start. The series record for starts before a driver's first pole is held by Scott Brayton, who scored the pole for the 1995 Indianapolis 500 in the last of his 148 Champ Car starts.

Rookie Will Power (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start 11th in his Champ Car debut, marking the best qualifying effort ever for an Australian-born driver for a Champ Car race at Surfers Paradise.

Today's attendance of 90,265 was an event record for a Saturday, and brings the three-day total of 211,162. The total attendance record for a Surfers Paradise event can be broken with a race-day crowd of 98,421 on Sunday.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Timo Glock , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta