By Tom Haapanen - Motorsport.com
With the morning clouds now burnt away, sun shone on the efforts of Team Penske in Saturday afternoon qualifying at the Molson Indy. Penske teammates and fellow Brazilians Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves claimed the two top spots in a close fight for the pole position.
de Ferran was strong from the outset, setting a lap time of 57.888 seconds on his first set of tires-which would still have been good enough for the second row-and then following it up with fast laps of 57.788, and, finally, 57.703, to claim the pole position and the FedEx Championship that goes with it.
"We have been running very well on this type of track," admitted de Ferran. "For tomorrow's race, the key will be to make very few mistakes, but that is very hard here."
Castroneves was close on de Ferran's heels throughout the session, but could not quite match his teammate's speed, ending with a time of 57.767. His final flying lap, with the checkered flag already out, showed promise, but it actually ended up being slightly slower, at 58.095 seconds.
The only other car in the "fast group" to break 58 seconds was Team Rahal's Kenny Brack. The young Swede challenged the Penske, but the pace of his Lola-Cosworth was not quite a match for the front-running Reynard-Hondas, and he had to settle for a time of 57.886.
"We have had problems all weekend, and this morning I hit the tire wall, so we are pretty happy with third. The track keeps changing, and you have to keep following the track with your setup," said Brack. "It's just disappointing to have two Penskes in front of us."
Surprisingly strong were the two top runners from the "slow group," in spite of the fact that about half the session was lost to red flags due to accidents. Tony Kanaan set an early time of 57.923 in the first session, just beating Alexandre Tagliani, whose best lap was timed at 57.997, the two claiming fourth and fifth places overall.
Completing the top ten positions on the grid were veteran drivers Dario Franchitti, Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Roberto Moreno, followed by rookie Scott Dixon.
While Penske has 1-2 on the grid, a similar finish is by no means guaranteed. The only polesitter to ever have won a race in 15 years on the punishing Toronto temporary street course was Michael Andretti 10 years ago. The only consolation to de Ferran is that Andretti went on the win the championship that year ...