CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Saturday report

Cart Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy responds to Friday's penalty by securing Saturday's pole at Molson Indy Vancouver. VANCOUVER (July 26, 2003) -- CART Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy ( ...

Cart Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy responds to Friday's penalty by securing Saturday's pole at Molson Indy Vancouver.

VANCOUVER (July 26, 2003) -- CART Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had a trying evening in Vancouver Friday night, spending much of his time contemplating the rule violation that cost him his first-round pole for Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver.

Tracy was found guilty of blocking other qualifiers during Friday's first round, a rule violation that carried a penalty that dropped the Canadian out of the top spot in qualifying and forced him to race his way back to the front in Saturday's final qualifying session. He would do so in grand fashion on a Chamber of Commerce day in Vancouver as the points leader hung a time of 60.926 seconds (105.236 mph) to score his fourth pole of the season.

Tracy was the only driver to dip into the 60-second range on a sunny Saturday, running his best lap on his 13th trip around the 1.781-mile street circuit, claiming the 17th pole of his career. He eliminated himself from any contention over blocking concerns today as his Player's/Forsythe Racing squad turned Tracy's car around quickly after the first stint and put him back on track for a second run while the course was virtually empty. He finished his allotment of 15 laps with 13 minutes to run and then sat back to see who would catch him.

"I wanted to make sure that no one could complain so we went out very quickly on the second set of tires," Tracy said. "This is very satisfying for me and for our team to come out here and run like this today."

Tracy's performance would drop Bruno Junqueira (#1 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) back to second for tomorrow's race, marking the fourth time this year that the Newman/Haas Racing pilot has started in the front row. Junqueira, who was guaranteed a front-row starting spot by virtue of the Tracy penalty when he was awarded the provisional pole, came out and carded a lap of 61.070 seconds (104.988 mph) to take the second spot on the speed sheets.

The surprise of the day came from the Herdez Competition camp as ageless Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his best qualifying result of the 2003 season with a third-place run. The 2001 Molson Indy Vancouver winner snapped off a lap of 61.172 seconds (104.813 mph) to move into the third spot, marking the third consecutive race in which Moreno has posted a season-best qualifying run.

"A few races ago we sat down as a team and talked about some things that had been going wrong," Moreno said. "Since then everything has been going well, the team is starting to jell and guys are getting the full benefit from what they are being given by the team. It is great to see us doing well and we hope to continue our improvements."

The session was full of action from flag to flag as drivers used a number of different strategies in trying to find space for themselves. Some like Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went out at the drop of the green flag, while Junqueira and a couple of others sat back and waited after everyone else had run their first stints.

That game plan got a late curve ball however when Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun coming out of Turn 12 and brought out a red flag with 10 minutes to run. Carpentier's accident sent everyone to the pits and left them waiting on a restart that would give the teams less than five minutes to finish their session. Junqueira and Jourdain were among the first cars on the track at the restart but would end up chasing each other for two laps before creating sufficient space for themselves.

"I was pressing Michel pretty hard when we went out because I knew if we pushed, we would get four laps instead of three," Junqueira explained. "But he might not have realized that so when I saw we wouldn't get the extra laps, I tried to find space."

He would put up his quick lap of the day on his last lap but would settle for the second spot behind the points leader. Jourdain would slot into the fourth position with Bourdais rounding out the top five. Carpentier qualified sixth despite losing his quick lap to the red flag penalty with former Vancouver polesitter Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) running seventh. Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent for the second consecutive day while Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

Tomorrow's Molson Indy Vancouver gets underway with the CART Champ Car warmup session at 10 a.m. local time with the race starting at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. The race can be seen on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel beginning at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.

TOP THREE DRIVER'S QUOTES:

Paul Tracy: "We wanted to go out there and set our time early in order to get out of the way so that nobody could complain that we were in their way. We set a mark for everybody to beat and fortunately nobody did. The talking is done on the track and that's what happened. I'm happy for Team Player's because we did it in Vancouver. Now we are going to win that race."

Bruno Junqueira: "Unfortunately, I just had three laps on the last outing. I ran a 10th short of PT. He was fast today, and so was Moreno. I think three of us were like half a second step from the guy that's in fourth. That was very impressive because this track is not that long. But anyway, I think the PacifiCare car is very good, and I hope it can do a good race tomorrow."

Roberto Moreno: "What can I say? I think the best way to describe it, it's been an effort that's been growing in our team. Our team, Herdez Competition, has gone to a two-car team this year. We've hired a bunch of good people, and they are starting to work together. We're starting to work together."

NOTEWORTHY

* Paul Tracy equaled a career best by taking his fourth pole of the season Saturday in Vancouver. Tracy won four poles during the 1994 season, a year that saw him finish third in the standings.

* Roberto Moreno matched a Herdez team record by qualifying third for Sunday's race. In its long history in the series as both Herdez and Bettenhausen Motorsports, Patrick Carpentier (1997) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (2001) both earned third-place starts at Nazareth.

* Gualter Salles was penalized with the loss of his fastest lap in Saturday's session after CART Stewards found him in violation of CART Rule 5.4.8, which is the same rule that cost Tracy the first-day pole on Friday.

* Patrick Carpentier did not suffer when he lost his fastest lap after bringing out the red flag. Carpentier lost a lap of 61.651 seconds and would be credited with a time of 61.691 seconds. Both times would have put him in the seventh spot on the grid.

* Tracy was awarded with the Greg Moore Pole Award after today's qualifying, in memory of the former Champ Car race winner and British Columbia native who died in 1999. The award was presented by James and Annie Moore, the brother and sister of the fallen racer.

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