CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Saturday qualifying report

WILL POWER THRILLS HOME CROWD AS HE SWEEPS CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING IN AUSTRALIA TO SCORE BRIDGESTONE POLE AWARD SURFERS PARADISE, Australia. (October 21, 2006) -- Will Power ( ...

WILL POWER THRILLS HOME CROWD AS HE SWEEPS CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING IN AUSTRALIA TO SCORE BRIDGESTONE POLE AWARD

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia. (October 21, 2006) -- Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took about eight minutes to prove that his future wasn't going to be linked with the one-hit wonders pile of Champ Car racing that is littered with guys that had a moment's fling with the top.

Watching most of today's final qualifying session from Pit Lane after leading Friday's first-round qualifying for the Lexmark Indy 300, Power decided with about eight minutes left in the session that discretion could wait for another day.

Glad in the green-and-gold colors of his native Australia, Power rolled out and led Champ Car qualifying for the second consecutive day, winning his first Bridgestone Pole Award and scoring the top starting spot for tomorrow's penultimate round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Power's hung up a time of 1:31.839 (109.561 mph/176.321 kph) on his last lap around the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street course today to lead Saturday qualifying, besting Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by 0.12 seconds to clinch not only his first pole, but the first for his Team Australia.

Ironically, the time posted by Power as the fastest of the session was only the third-fastest time of the day, but on-track incidents and a pair of untimely red flags erased those clockings and left the door open for Power's last-lap dash.

Tracy rebounded admirably from an incident that kept him out of Friday's qualifying, moving to the top of the charts on his fourth lap, and lowering his time on each of his next two passes. His time of 1:31.959 (109.418 mph/176.091 kph) eventually put him in the top three, marking the 11th consecutive time that the Canadian has started fourth or better in Surfers Paradise.

Two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed his strength soon after, vaulting to the head of the field with a lap of 1:31.536, but that time was erased on the very next pass when he suffered hard impact with the frontstretch wall. The crash ended Bourdais' chance for pole and also cost him his fastest lap time of the day, meaning that he would have to rely on his Friday time to earn his spot in the starting grid.

The Champ Car Safety Team cleared up the accident in short order, allowing the rest of the field to resume the fight with eight minutes left on the clock. It was at this time that Power made his first trip on track, but after two laps to warm up the Bridgestone Potenzas, it was A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) that had everyone's attention.

Allmendinger, who also failed to post a time in Friday's qualifying after a problem in practice, flashed to the top of the speed sheets with a 1:31.405, just a microscopic 0.002 seconds behind Power's Friday time. But Allmendinger's name vanished from the timing monitor as quickly as it had gotten there, owing to a red flag brought out by a Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spin in Turn Four.

The red flag came out just seconds before Allmendinger finished his flying lap, negating that time and dropping him from second to seventh in the starting order. The scarlet banner also put paid to everyone else's chance to run down the Aussie Power, giving him his first pole.

The other benefactor of the red flag sat in the champion's chair as the premature end to the session allowed Bourdais' Friday time to hold up for second on Sunday's grid. Tracy fell back to third after Power's final dash while 2004 Surfers winner Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start fourth.

Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the best qualifying result of his three-year series career, earning the fifth spot with a time of 1:32.348 (108.957 mph/175.350 kph). Philippe will start alongside 2005 Surfers polesitter Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who used his Friday time to secure the sixth position.

Allmendinger ended up seventh and will start alongside Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Clarke, who scored his first Champ Car pole three weeks ago at Road America, is now nine points behind Power in the chase for the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Award. Team Australia's Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Rocketsports' Mario Dominguez (#8 Pemex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

The 13th round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will take place tomorrow afternoon, with the green flag flying at 1:10 p.m. local time. Fans can follow all of the action live via the Race Director feature on www.champcar.ws, or can watch the race in its entirety on SPEED beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

Will Power: Actually, yeah, we sat, because we had a set of blacks to go and when Sebastien did a 31.5, I thought we should go out and try for a time on the black and see where the car is at and see if it's actually possible to better the time from yesterday. And we didn't even get to do that run and the red flag came out with Sebastien. Then there was only 12 minutes to go so we had no choice, but to go out on the red tires and go for it, because we were not sure whether A.J. was going to go quicker or Paul was going to go quicker. So I mean, yeah, the car was quick enough to beat that time.

Sebastien Bourdais: Maybe a little over-optimistic, but at the same time, probably just over shot the apex point by, I don't know, five centimeters or something like that. And the plastic belt wrapped around the front tire and by the time I knew what was happening, the car was stopped without the left side. So a little bit of a tough break for the McDonald's team on that front, but very good starting position. You know, it's just up-and-down from yesterday and today and we're going to start second, so not that bad, not that bad a day really.

Paul Tracy: I'm happy with how the performance of the team has rebounded from yesterday. Obviously yesterday was a huge disappointment not get to go qualify because I felt that we had been quick right from the drop of the flag yesterday. But hats off to Will and Team Australia. Tremendous accomplishment here in his hometown and there's always a lot of pressure to perform. I've been in the same thing in Toronto, and when you can score a pole in front of all your family and friends, it's a great feeling.

NOTEWORTHY

Sebastien Bourdais must finish ninth or better in order to clinch his third consecutive Champ Car title tomorrow.

Will Power became the first Australian-born driver to win a Champ Car pole position since Geoff Brabham turned the trick at Riverside in 1981. It was only Brabham's second Champ Car start, but he would never win a pole again despite making 87 total appearances.

Will Power and Dan Clarke have claimed the last two Champ Car poles, Power here in Australia and Clarke in Road America. This marks the first time that two different rookie drivers have started from pole in consecutive races since 1983. John Paul Jr. (Las Vegas) and Teo Fabi (Laguna Seca) were the last rookies to start on pole in back-to-back events.

Ryan Briscoe will start 11th in his Champ Car debut Sunday, putting him third among the eight rookies that will start Sunday's event.

Saturday's attendance at Surfers Paradise was 89,772, boosting the three-day total to 210,988.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Ryan Briscoe , Nelson Philippe , Will Power , John Paul , Geoff Brabham , Teo Fabi , Dan Clarke