Saturday was warm, with a few cloudy periods, much better than the rain showers that had been predicted.
Unser did well to qualify 8th, considering he was suffering from food poisoning and didn't run at all on Friday, when Gordon set his pole-winning time. Michael Andretti missed damaging his car when he slid into the tire barriers of the chicane of turn 5, repeating his perfect alignment trick from Australia and striking flat on the side of the car. Paul Tracy was not so lucky, hitting the next barrier on the same corner at 45 degrees a few laps later after hopping high over the curb, and breaking his left front wheel off, though he had set a time good enough for 6th. He stood by the fence for the rest of qualifying, looking attentive but rather dejected. Mikey almost lost it again at the same corner (boy, I picked the best seat for action!) a few minutes later as he caught up to Villeneuve. He demonstrated amazing car control and recovered to pass right after. Then Robby Gordon had what was reported as a turbo fire and the course was red flagged with 5 minutres left in qualifying, and the order didn't change significantly in the last few minutes.
The curb on turn 5 gave a lot of drivers trouble, in other classes as well as the Indy cars. Unser and Tracy were consistently smooth around that corner (though when Paul hit the curb, he wasn't fooling around!), but others, including Mansell, Fittipaldi, Gordon and Michael Andretti were inconsistent, sometimes missing the curb entirely and sometimes bouncing high enough you could see air under their front inside wheel, though they all kept clear of it more after Tracy's shunt. Two drivers that always impress me with their sommthness are Willy T. Ribbs and Ross Bentley; give them Matsushita's car and they could really do something. Apparently Bentley missed raising enough money for a newer, more competitive engine and chassis by only $20,000.
-- **************** L.J. Street