AMERICAN A.J. ALLMENDINGER CONTINUES TITLE QUEST BY LEADING FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING AT MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO TORONTO (July 7, 2006) -- American racing prodigy A.J. Allmendinger ( ...
AMERICAN A.J. ALLMENDINGER CONTINUES TITLE QUEST BY LEADING FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING AT MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO
TORONTO (July 7, 2006) -- American racing prodigy A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued his march toward the top of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford standings, leading a qualifying session for the third consecutive race, pacing today's opening session at the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto.
Allmendinger snapped off a quick lap of 58.621 seconds (107.777 mph) to lead the first day of qualifying around the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street circuit, besting former RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by two-tenths of a second to score the first championship point of the weekend. Nelson Philippe (#34 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put up a quick time of 59.203 seconds (106.718 mph) late in the session to wrest the third spot away from hometown favorite Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The Forsythe Championship Racing driver, who just yesterday signed a deal to extend his stay with the Chicago-based team, used a daring strategy and a new set of red-rimmed alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to take advantage of a rare bit of open track midway through today's 30-minute qualifying session.
Allmendinger was one of the first drivers to pit after his first stint, and was sitting fifth after everyone else had logged their first set of times. Sitting in the pits, Allmendinger and his team realized that every other car was on the Pit Lane as well, and decided to roll out ahead of everyone else for their second stint.
"My engineer asked me if I wanted to go out or if I wanted to wait, because the track usually gets better with every lap somebody runs on it, and there were still 10 minutes left in the session," Allmendinger said. "But we decided to go out and take advantage of the clear track and we ran three good, clean laps."
Allmendinger's time at that point was a full half-second quicker than that of Wilson, but the Brit soon began whittling away on that gap. Like Allmendinger and Tracy, Wilson came out for his second stint on the alternate tires, but would be unable to take full advantage later in his run as traffic slowed the charge.
Wilson was able to move to within the aforementioned two-tenths on the 11th of the 14 laps he ran in today's session, but was unable to improve on that time on his next three passes as the defending Molson Grand Prix of Toronto champion settled for second.
Philippe used a quick late run to climb into the third spot, earning the best qualifying result of his three-year Champ Car career. One of just four drivers to use each of his 15 laps in first-round qualifying, Philippe hung up his quick lap on his 13th pass, leapfrogging Tracy with two minutes left in the session.
Two-time Toronto titlist Tracy was one of the few drivers to card his best time on his final lap of the session, stopping the clocks at 59.274 seconds (106.590 mph). Tracy actually held the lead in the session at the 13-minute mark, but fell back to fourth in the final listing. He took the fourth spot ahead of championship leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who ended his day in fifth.
Bourdais was in the top four after the first stint, but the two-time Toronto polesitter elected not to head back out for a second stint and ended his day in fifth with a time of 59.313 seconds (106.520 mph). 2002 Toronto winner Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) wound up sixth followed by Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top-finishing rookie in the opening session, using the last of his 15 laps to vault into the top 10, posting a time of 60.387 seconds (104.625 mph) to take the 10th position. Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 14th overall and third among the rookies.