CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy takes pole for hometown Toronto race

The 18th running of the Molson Indy in Toronto, Ontario will have three Canadians in the top five of the starting grid, following a very competitive second qualifying session at the Exhibition Place circuit.

Paul Tracy.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Hometown boy Paul Tracy qualified first at 58.839 seconds, averaging 107.378 mph around the 1.755-mile temporary street track. Fellow Canadians Alex Tagliani (59.261 seconds) and Patrick Carpentier (59.364) finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Brazilian Bruno Junqueira, who posted the quickest lap yesterday at 59.486, shaved 0.154 off his time and will start alongside Tracy in the front row. Michel Jourdain of Mexico will start third after completing his quickest lap in 59.218.

Although Jourdain had the second quickest time of the two qualifying sessions, Junqueira is guaranteed a spot on the front row for capturing the provisional pole yesterday. All 19 drivers in the field improved their times from yesterday.

"It was a very mentally challenging session," said Tracy. "We waited three or four laps after the rain and then we went out. The track was slippery and we were not getting much grip. On my first lap, I lost some time in the last few corners. My grip level stayed the same on the second lap and we were able to get a time in the 58-second range. We are very lucky and very happy for Team Player's in their final season. The conditions are tricky. You just have to get out there at the right time."

Tomorrow's race will be the 16th pole of Tracy's career, moving him into a tie for 13th place on the all-time list with Gil de Ferran.

The pole sitter has won only two of the first 17 Molson Indy races held in Toronto. Junqueira was asked about a possible jinx and whether or not is an advantage to start second on the grid.

"Sometimes it is better to start second instead of first," explained Junqueira. "I can make some pressure on Tracy. I know Tracy, under pressure, sometimes makes mistakes."

Junqueira is just eight points behind Tracy in the driver's championship despite the fact that he has yet to win a race or a pole.

Despite being hindered by traffic in his final laps, Jourdain will have his best ever starting spot in Toronto, but was still frustrated over the behaviour of other drivers.

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"Both sessions have been frustrating with people blocking you and nothing is done about it," said a dejected Jourdain. "I was four tenths faster than my previous qualifying session until I hit the traffic, so it was frustrating."

Just five minutes into the qualifying session, Carpentier ran a quick lap of 1:00.438, which was five one-hundredths of a second off pole.

With a dry track, nine of the drivers improved their times from yesterday's provisional qualifying session in the first six minutes.

In the seventh minute, Max Papis spun exiting Turn 3 and stalled his PK Racing Team car, bringing out the red flag. Moments later, the rain came forcing the participants into the pits for the next eight minutes.

When the weather cleared, Adrian Fernandez was the first to venture out followed by the majority of the field two minutes later. Junqueira elected to wait in the pits to see if anyone would challenge his provisional pole time of 59.486 seconds set yesterday.

Jourdain moved to the top of the sheet with a quick lap of 59.218 seconds in the 26th minute. Then, Tracy delighted his hometown crowd in the 27th minute when he moved up to second place with a time of 59.392.

Tagliani bumped Junqueira down even further, posting a 59.453, good enough for third. In the same minute, Tracy ventured into the 58s, crossing the line in 58.839 seconds, which stood unchallenged to the end of the session. The time dropped Jourdain into second.

Tagliani improved once again on his next lap to 59.261, remaining in third.

With Junqueira rapidly dropping in the ranks, he left his pit to improve his time along with Tracy and both had clear track ahead of them. In the final five minutes, Junqueira moved into third place on the day, posting times of 59.604 and 59.332 seconds consecutively but could not better Tracy.

The top ten in tomorrow's starting grid will be Tracy, Junqueira, Jourdain, Tagliani, Carpentier, Sebastien Bourdais, Roberto Moreno, Oriol Servia, Jimmy Vasser and Adrian Fernandez.

The Molson Indy Toronto takes place tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and will be covered live on CBS Sports. It is Round 10 of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series.

Heading into tomorrow's race, Tracy sits atop the driver's championship standings at 118 points, Junqueira is second with 110 and Michel Jourdain is third with 97.

By finishing second last week in Cleveland, Tracy also moved his home country of Canada back up to the top of the Nations' Cup standings with 150 points, seven ahead of Mexico and 36 ahead of Brazil.

Bourdais leads the Rookie of the Year totals with 74 points, followed by Darren Manning (45) and Mario Haberfeld (41). Bourdais is fifth among all drivers.