Defending Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy sailed to the pole on the streets of Surfers Paradise under sunny skies on the Gold Coast in Australia for Sunday's penultimate race of the CCWS 2004 calendar.
The pole winner continued, "When I headed back out, I ran into a lot of traffic. During my second stint, I had two good laps left on tires and fuel and I just pushed real hard. On that last lap, the tires were gone, and I knew there was nothing more I could do."
Tracy laid down a flying lap on the 2.795-mile street circuit at 1:33.556 for a speed of 107.551 miles per hour during Saturday's final qualifying session. The Canadian nailed down the pole besting Bruno Junqueira by 0.181 seconds.
"I was lucky to put down a fast lap and even luckier to be on top when the red came out at the end of the session," commented Tracy. "It will be an interesting race tomorrow, we have three of the most aggressive drivers of the circuit starting out in front and we will all be charging very hard heading into the first corner."
Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the provisional pole, will take the green flag from the front row by virtue of his guaranteed spot from Friday's qualifying. The Frenchman was third fastest today, clocked at 1:33.765 (107.311 mph).
"It's a good thing to be fastest on Friday because you can still start on the front row no matter how your final qualifying goes." commented Bourdais. "It was a frustrating session for everyone because of all the red flags."
Bourdais main rival for the 2004 drivers' title is his teammate Junqueira who will start from the third spot on the grid with today's improved time of 1:33.737 (107.343 mph).
"I enjoyed qualifying," said Junqueira. "I think we put on a good show. I was fastest then someone beat my time. I moved back up then someone beat it again. I was very happy with the PacifiCare car today but I left a little bit on the table."
The final two races pit the two Newman/Haas Racing drivers and their McDonald's and PacifiCare teams against one another. On Sunday, all the Frenchman needs to do is finish with seven points more than the Brazilian to take the crown.
"I think it will be mathematically pretty difficult to pick up seven points on Bruno (Junqueira) in the race because he is going to be so close," expressed Bourdais. "We are going to more or less try to put the McDonald's car up and see if the race comes to us. If the championship goes to Mexico City, I'm fine with that."
Junqueira added his thoughts on the championship battle, "I need to finish in front of Sebastien (Bourdais) but I'm going to try to win the race. I'm not thinking about the championship; I'm just thinking about getting the best result possible in the race."
The top three qualifiers each held the pole at one time during the 30-minute qualifying segment: Junqueira, Bourdais, Junqueira, Tracy.
Rookie AJ Allmendinger, the leading candidate for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year moved up the grid to fourth position by turning a lap of 1:33.867 (107.194 mph) in his RuSPORT back-up car. The team elected to pull the primary car prior to today's practice/qualifying run after a crash in the morning practice session.
"First of all, I have to say I'm really proud of my crew today," stated Allmendinger. "My crew went to work on the spare car and not only got it ready for qualifying, but gave me an even better car than yesterday.
"The start of the race tomorrow is going to be really tough, and every year in collects a lot of cars. I'm starting behind Sebastien (Bourdais), so I'm going to be right there on his gearbox and hopefully slide through and race to a top finish," continued the young American who can seal the RoY title by finishing one point higher than his nearest competitor, Justin Wilson.
Winner of the 2002 Surfers Paradise race, Mario Dominguez, will start fifth on the grid. Dominguez' Herdez Competition teammate and the defending race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay will start alongside him.