The Champ Cars have returned to Laguna Seca three months earlier this year, as the traditional September date falls in the middle of CART's European jaunt. That's not the only change since last year - Scott Dixon is now driving a third Target...
The Champ Cars have returned to Laguna Seca three months earlier this year, as the traditional September date falls in the middle of CART's European jaunt. That's not the only change since last year - Scott Dixon is now driving a third Target car (his is the one with the blue roll hoop; Bruno Junqueira's is white, and Kenny Brack's is red). Dixon finished fourth at Laguna Seca last year in his rookie season, and would dearly love to improve on that this year. His performance at the last race, Michigan, suggests that this is by no means impossible.
In other changes the Herdez car of Mario Dominguez now wears #55 (previously it carried #16), while the Brazilian drivers are sporting new helmets painted using the colours of their national flag as a show of support for the Brazilian World Cup soccer team.
The first thirteen minutes of the qualifying session passed with no cars venturing on track, but eventually Shinji Nakano started out on an exploratory lap. He was soon followed by the cars of Mario Dominguez and Max Papis. Shortly thereafter the cars of Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti raced each other down pit lane, and when Adrian Fernandez and Dario Franchitti also ventured out qualifying was really under way.
Dominguez was briefly the holder of the provisional pole, but he was almost immediately supplanted by Max Papis. Soon times were dropping every time cars crossed the finishing stripe, with fast times being set by Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan, Townsend Bell and Cristiano da Matta.
First Kenny Brack and then Patrick Carpentier managed to set second fastest times, but neither was able to supplant da Matta. Meanwhile the Team Green/Team Motorola cars were having a bad day, languishing at the back of the field.
Eventually Kenny Brack managed to find a little more speed, and briefly took over the provisional pole, but da Matta took it back a couple of laps later. Paul Tracy's day continued to go badly as the car got away from him in the final turn, but he was able to continue without making contact with anything. Undeterred by this little incident he pressed on, and with five minutes to go had at least managed to pull himself into the thirteenth place on the scoresheet. Kenny Brack, too, continued to improve, and recaptured the provisional pole.
In the final minute Patrick Carpentier spun approaching turn eleven, and the session ended under the caution flags. Kenny Brack had earned himself a championship point and a front-row start with the fastest time of the session, with Cristiano da Matta is second place. Despite his spin Patrick Carpentier posted the third fastest time.