Power lands pole in wet/dry Surfers Paradise

Will Power drove through changing wet and dry conditions to earn his third straight pole at Surfers Paradise, a popular result in front of a noisy and massive throng of fellow Aussies. Aboard the KV Racing Technology Dallara, Power beat a host of former CART and Champ Car drivers in the first race sanctioned by IndyCar at the seaside circuit.

Will Power (KV Racing Technology).
Photo by Chris Von Wieldt.

Power pipped Scott Dixon at the checkers for the Firestone Fast Six on a track that was dry for the first time in the qualifying process. His lap of 1:34.945 (105.977mph) was considerably slower than his pole last year in the Champ Car-sanctioned race when Power clocked 1:30.504 for Team Australia.

The Aussie from nearby Toowoomba became the first to win three straight poles and surpassed two-time pole winners Nigel Mansell, Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti.

"I've been in this position before," said Power, still looking for a victory here. "We want to get it done on race day."

Power saved his quickest lap for the end of the 10-minute session after cooling his tires for one final run. "I went for a big one. It was pretty messy in the second segment."

New Zealand's Dixon was a distant 0.832 seconds behind Power and fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe, in third, completed the sweep by South Pacific drivers.

Rain and sunshine meant that getting to the final session was more tricky than getting to the top of the charts in the Firestone Fast Six. Just as the green fell for Group 1, steady rain began to fall as teams left the pits on slicks. Danica Patrick was the first to slide into the wall, breaking her front wing on the out lap as teams still on the pit road switched to rains and all others pitted. "Driving an IndyCar on street course in the rain is incredibly difficult," said Ryan Hunter-Reay, "especially over the curbs."

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Rahal Letterman Racing).
Photo by Chris Von Wieldt.

Hunter-Reay was among those who looped his car -- twice on the north end -- but advanced after setting the quickest lap. The rain stopped in favor of sunshine, but all stayed on Firestone wets. Others who spun over the curbs included Graham Rahal, who failed to advance due to his late slide, getting pipped by Mario Moraes at the checkers as the track dried.

"I had a blast," said Hunter-Reay, who raced here in the rain in 2003. "I wish it had kept raining." He was followed by Alex Tagliani, Vitor Meira, E.J. Viso, Moraes, and Briscoe.

The second group had an easier time with drying conditions that still required Firestone wets. As he would in the Fast Six, Power waited until the last lap to nick the quickest lap, this time from Tony Kanaan as the speeds climbed with all but the two jogs at the north end dry on the 2.7-mile, 12-turn circuit.

Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves also advanced, the latter after a trip down the escape road.

For those who chose wet set-ups, the overcast, cool but drying conditions did not bode well. "We took a chance by making changes for the wet track," said Castroneves, who again found the escape route in Segment 2's opening laps. Power and Franchitti then led those pitting for slicks. The yellow for Moraes that ended with seven minutes to go made advancing dicey as Power dropped from first to fifth as he waited it out on the pit road while making set-up changes in anticipation of a dry track.

Dixon and Castroneves advanced to the top two spots, but it would be a matter of who had the right set-up for the dry, which favored Power, quickest in both sessions Friday. Franchitti and Hunter-Reay joined Briscoe to complete the final Fast Six session.