CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais gets Friday bonus point at Monterrey

CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais gets Friday bonus point at Monterrey

The new qualifying procedure for the Champ Car World Series was put into effect today at the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix in Mexico. It certainly made for an interesting hour of on-track activity, but did the new format work and achieve the...

The new qualifying procedure for the Champ Car World Series was put into effect today at the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix in Mexico. It certainly made for an interesting hour of on-track activity, but did the new format work and achieve the expected results?

Judging by today, questions will arise along with driver comments, especially those who are frustrated by the new system. Yet, is it truly any worse than the past qualifying changes under the former CART banner?

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
That will be left for the CCWS officials, teams, drivers and the fans to decide. The nine drivers left idling watching from the sidelines for the final fifteen minute session for the top ten -- made up of the top five in the each of the two groups -- were no doubt unhappy and, yet, the red flags that affected them today might have done so in the past, too.

One racer who is happy yet a bit downtrodden that he did not secure a front row start for Sunday's race under the new rules is Sebastien Bourdais.

Bourdais rose to the top in the end, earning the bonus point for Friday's qualifying run. With the slate wiped clean for the final session of the top 10, the Newman/Haas driver clocked a time of 1:15.978 for a speed of 99.692 miles per hour around the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park road circuit.

The Frenchman secured the Friday bonus point plus a guaranteed start in tomorrow's top ten shootout. "The McDonald's car has been very good since we first put it on the track this morning," said the Bourdais. "I am happy with our end results today. The Bridgestone tires are wearing very well here and the track is a lot cleaner compared to last year, so tomorrow should be another great run"

"It is a shame that we are not guaranteed a front row position for the start of the race," Bourdais added. "I am confident that we will be able to improve the car and our times for tomorrow and re-capture the pole during the final qualifying session."

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Bruno Junqueira could not top his teammate as his fast time in the No. 6 PacifiCare Lola was 0.903 seconds slower due to the red flag. "I am happy with the car. The Pacificare car handled very well for me during both the practice and qualifying sessions" expressed Junqueira. "During the third segment in qualifying the red flag did not help us.

"I am a little frustrated because I was the fastest in my first qualifying segment and I was hoping to obtain the Championship point because every point helps. However, tomorrow is the most important day and I feel that we have a great shot at obtaining the pole."

The first two sessions were run in groups by a random-draw. The first nine drivers took to the track shortly after 1:00 p.m. Mexico Daylight Time (2pm EDT). The nine drivers consisted of Bourdais, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier, rookie Alex Sperafico, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oriol Servia, Michel Jourdain Jr. - the Mexican fans greeted him with loud cheers as they did for the next two drivers in the first group - Rodolfo Lavin and rookie driver Roberto Gonzalez.

Bourdais placed the No. 2 McDonald's on the top of the charts to earn his place in the final runoff with a time of 1:16.468 (99.053 mph). Forsythe Racing's Carpentier was 0.149 seconds behind and would also move into the final group along with Rocketsports' Tagliani, Herdez Competition's Hunter-Reay and RuSPORT's Jourdain Jr.

Group two drivers were Junqueira, rookie Justin Wilson, rookie Nelson Philippe, 2003 champion Paul Tracy, Mario Haberfeld, Jimmy Vasser, Tarso Marques, rookie and 2003 Toyota Atlantic champion A.J. Allmendinger, and local crowd favorite Mario Dominguez.

NHR's Junqueira sat the fastest time at 1:15.834 (99.881 mph) followed by Conquest Racing's Wilson, 0.253 seconds adrift. Joining those two for today's final top ten segment were: Forsythe Racing's Tracy, Herdez Competitions's Dominguez and Walker Racing's Haberfeld.

Haberfeld and team choose to sit out the final qualifying session; thus, leaving just nine to battle for the point. Tracy spun on his first lap placing himself out of contention at turn nine.

In the end when all was said and done, there is no provisional grid and the only person who walked away with the laurels was Bourdais who gained not only the one point toward this year's championship but the right to be one of the final top ten going for the gold (in this case the pole position) in tomorrow's shootout. No longer can the top racer rest assured after the first qualifying attempts to even sit on the front row.

And then there will be Saturday.

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Earl Ma.
Tomorrow, everything will be brand new again. The qualifying will open with 30 minutes of an all-skate; no splitting into groups. The top nine with the addition of Bourdais unless he is in the fastest 10 will move into the shootout.

The shootout will consist of those ten drivers who will battle for the pole position. They each will be allowed seven laps to set the best time. The grid will be based on the top ten outcome, followed by the remaining field for positions 11 thru 18 based on Saturday's 30-minute session.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Roberto Gonzalez , Alex Sperafico
Teams Conquest Racing