Two-time defending Long Beach Grand Prix champion Paul Tracy established a new single-lap qualifying record on the 1.968-mile street course, and will start from pole Sunday in the opening round of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.
Tracy's lap record of 1:07.485, 104.983 mph, is his second pole position on the streets of Long Beach, the first coming in 1994. The mark surpasses the record which was once held by former series champion Gil de Ferran who turned in a lap of 1:07.494 in 2000.
"It was great." Tracy said of his pole setting lap. "We used our (softer) Bridgestone Tire options yesterday because we felt at the end, like I said yesterday, we had an opportunity to try to better the time set by Bruno. It didn't happen. So really we only had one opportunity today. We wanted to go out there and really just get a baseline feel of how the car was going to be on the standard tires.
"I did a good time on standard tires. We were close to Bruno and Sebastien with standard tires. We didn't make any changes. We just made a small wing adjustment," continued the pole winner. "We knew if I could get the right lap and time it right that we could do the lap time. I had to find the right space."
Every driver but one made an improvement on their times today, rookie Andrew Ranger being the exception. Ranger had the led the rookie contingent the previous round but only managed to equal his time with a 1:09.416, 102.063 mph.
With the first ten minutes of the session complete, the big guns made their way out as others came into the pits for adjustments. Veteran Jimmy Vasser, who may be running his last LBPG due to pending retirement comments, held the top spot briefly but relented to faster cars. Vasser is the current "elder statesman" of the series and will be racing in his 198th consecutive Champ Car event.
Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was the next driver to top the charts, and first to eclipse Newman Haas teammate Bruno Junqueira's provisional pole time from Friday. However, he dropped down to fourth quickest as Junqueira and then Mario Dominguez set faster times on they're last qualifying lap.
Junqueira, who had set the provisional pole time on Friday, finished in second and nearly caught his Canadian rival but fell just short at 1:07.644, 104.737 mph. Tracy's teammate Dominguez blistered his last lap and starts third, timing at 1:07.803, 104.491 mph.
"It just shows how professional Forsythe Championship Racing is. Dominguez said. "They have done it in the past with other drivers. It just shows that if you're with a good team you can be very fast. I'm also very happy for Paul Tracy, who got the pole position. He's received me very well. So happy to be here."
A total of six drivers beat Junqueira's previous time, the last being German born Timo Glock who in his first Champ Car race will start from row three. Glock clocked a time of 1:08.274, 103.770 mph. A former test driver and competitor for Jordan in Formula One during 2004, Glock used his experience in high-performance open-wheeled race cars to stay right with Champ Car's best.
A bit of a let down today was the effort of Christiano da Matta who is back from a two-year stint in F1. Although qualifying eighth, da Matta was not pleased.
"I am pretty disappointed with our qualifying effort because we were so much better in testing during the off-season." The 2002 series champion said. "I think part of the problem is that the Long Beach circuit is bumpy and we don't have a lot of data in that area. However, I am looking forward to tomorrow's race. The first corner of the first lap of a championship is always a concern, but we have some very talented drivers in this series, so I am not really worried."
On the flip side of that was Alex Tagliani, who, racing for the newly formed Team Australia headed ended his run with a 1:08.466, 103.479 mph and a fourth row start. "Qualifying seventh is a fantastic start for Team Australia," said the six-year veteran. "We obviously would have liked to be a little bit faster, but this program is very new and I am extremely enthusiastic about how everything has come together."
Rounding out the top ten were Bourdais in fourth followed by sophomore Justin Wilson, rookie Ronnie Bremer in ninth and A. J. Allmendinger.