CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Saturday report

Cristiano da Matta earns his fifth CART FedEx Series pole with track-record run at Molson Indy Vancouver. VANCOUVER, British Columbia (July 27, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta ( ...

Cristiano da Matta earns his fifth CART FedEx Series pole with track-record run at Molson Indy Vancouver.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (July 27, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) didn't wait long to make his mark on a crowd of 50,871 Saturday on the streets of Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place, hanging a new track record on the field just eight minutes in to the 60-minute final qualifying session, carding a time that would stand up to give the Newman/Haas Racing driver his fifth pole of the season.

The series points leader brought the big crowd to its feet right off the bat as he rolled onto the 1.781-mile street circuit soon after the green flag waved on the session, and needed just five laps to establish a new track record of 1:00.339 (106.260 mph/171.008 km/h). The time allowed the diminutive Brazilian to eclipse the previous Vancouver standard of 1:00.405 set by Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and Gil de Ferran.

Da Matta's early run sparked a flurry of activity on the track as more than half the field took to the circuit under a heavy cloud cover. The cooler conditions made for faster speeds as 11 drivers would end up posting times under the provisional polewinning time from Friday, many of them doing so in the first 20 minutes of the session.

Friday's provisional qualifying leader Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) was one of the few drivers to wait until the latter half of the session to try his luck - a strategy that gave the Canadian a bit of clear track as a number of the drivers had completed their 15-lap allotment well ahead of the 60-minute time limit. Although guaranteed a front-row starting spot by virtue of his Friday effort, Tracy battled to the last lap before coming up short with a effort of 1:00.502 (105.973 mph/170.547 km/h), giving him the second spot on the grid for Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver. The qualifying run earned Tracy his third front-row starting spot of the 2002 season, a spot that he earned his only 2002 win from, when he bested the Milwaukee field from the outside of the front row.

Franchitti would shake off the disappointment of losing his track record by roaring to the third position on the grid, marking the fourth time that the Team KOOL Green driver has qualified third or better this season. Franchitti carded a time of 1:00.559 (105.874 mph/170.387 km/h) to snare the third spot, putting both KOOL-sponsored cars in the top three for the first time this season.

Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) backed up his strong showing in provisional qualifying to lock down the fourth position on the grid, equaling his best starting spot of the current season. Dixon put up a 1:00.650 (105.715 mph/170.131 km/h) to earn his place on the outside of the second row, while new team co-owner Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top five. Andretti, winner of three Molson Indy Vancouver events, will start in the fifth spot for the second straight weekend, tying his best effort of the 2002 campaign with a best time of 1:00.749 (105.542 mph/169.854 km/h).

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) took the sixth spot on the grid for the second consecutive week, snapping off a lap of 1:00.763 (105.518 mph/169.815 km/h) to bump Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) back to the seventh spot, with Fittipaldi putting up a 1:00.779 (105.490 mph/169.770 km/h) to earn a fourth-row grid position.

Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Ford contingent, taking the eighth spot ahead of fellow Ford-Cosworth runner Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), with Kenny Brack (#12 Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) rounding out the top 10.

The session was punctuated by four cars that abandoned their provisional qualifying times in order to try their luck with their backup cars. The efforts all proved fruitless however, and showed the value of the early-morning practice sessions as Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) was the highest qualifier of those that dropped their Friday times, and he will start from the 12th spot. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also dropped their Friday times, and would qualify 16th, 17th and 18th respectively.

Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver will take the green flag at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): (On going out early in qualifying) "Yesterday I couldn't get a clean lap here. It was a zoo. We knew the only chance we had to get a clear run would be in the beginning of the session. With the way it went yesterday, everyone wanted to go faster. We made the car better for this session after struggling this morning. We experimented with the car after that and it worked for us." (On the championship battle) "I really hope there's not a championship battle, but there is a long way to go in this season. Team KOOL Green struggled early in the season adjusting to the Lola chassis, but every weekend they are improving. They, along with Team Target [Chip Ganassi Racing] are improving every week."

PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "We made a change right before the start of the session. We we're sixth or seventh in the first stint, so we went back and made more changes. The second stint was basically me overdriving the car and we were off a tenth. But to be starting second this weekend is fine. The car runs as well on old tires as it does on fresh tires and we'll go forward tomorrow." (On his future) "I think, for me, from my standpoint, I believe in CART. I want to stay in CART. That's my future, short and long-term. I'm pushing forward. I'm sticking behind CART. So that's where I want to be."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Paul [Tracy] was very fast in Toronto when I struggled. But all three cars came off the transporter fast and well-balanced here this weekend. We gave it a good shot today, though, and came up a bit short. We made some changes in the second run and we lost the balance which slowed us down. Overall I think we have a good race car for tomorrow."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Cristiano da Matta has won the pole position in five of the last six CART events, the best string in Champ Car competition since Alex Zanardi won six consecutive poles in 1996-97.

* Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) posted his best road-course qualifying effort since April with an 11th-place run on Saturday. The polewinner in the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico, Fernandez qualified seventh at Long Beach but had not done any better than 13th since.

* Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) took the 15th spot on the grid in his Patrick Racing machine in his first race since the event in Motegi, Japan.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing