CHAMPCAR/CART: Brands Hatch: Sunday qualifying report

Points leader Paul Tracy earns first Champ Car World Series pole since 2000 in taking top spot for Monday's London Champ Car Trophy event. KENT, England (May 4, 2003) -- CART Champ Car points leader Paul Tracy ( ...

Points leader Paul Tracy earns first Champ Car World Series pole since 2000 in taking top spot for Monday's London Champ Car Trophy event.

KENT, England (May 4, 2003) -- CART Champ Car points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has done just about everything possible in the first three races of the 2003 campaign, starting in the front row in each race and leading every event on his way to claiming three straight wins.

In the grand scheme of things, the only thing that the newly-crowned Driver of the Quarter had not done was to win a pole -- a malady that was hardly exclusive to this season. Tracy, who will be the first to admit that he has not been the finest qualifier on the grid, had not won a pole since the 2000 season when he led qualifying at Michigan and had not won a road-course pole since 1994 at Laguna Seca.

But in this season of success for Tracy, the dearth of pole positions was just another wrong to be righted. Sunday, he did so in claiming the pole for Monday's London Champ Car Trophy at Brands Hatch, earning the top spot for the fourth round of competition in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. Tracy took the pole by virtue of his first-round time of 37.006 seconds (115.960 mph) as a sunny day in England put 30 degrees of temperature into the tracks and kept the top guys from shaving much time off of their Saturday provisional runs.

Tracy earned his 14th career pole with the effort and broke a streak of 51 races without leading the field to the flag. The Canadian had the advantage of seeing all of his competitors make their Sunday qualifying runs before heading out on track, and after seeing that no one had bested his time, he went out for one lap and pulled back in to celebrate the end of his streak.

"It's been a long time since I was on the pole, a real long time since I was on the pole in a road course. So it's satisfying because I've been second a lot this year and second a few times last year," Tracy said. "You just always missed out by just that little bit. So it's nice to finally be on pole."

Tracy had to sweat for a bit before celebrating however as Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would go out and put up a lap of 37.044 seconds around the 1.192-mile Brands Hatch circuit on his third lap, and expected to best Tracy's first-round time on his next lap. But the mounting speed and the slicker track caused an anxious moment heading into the first turn and cost the rookie a shot at his third pole.

"Actually it's a bit between satisfaction and frustration because I did my best lap time in the third lap," Bourdais said. "I was probably going to be quicker in the fourth. I was much, much quicker in turn one, because I had to up shift earlier and try to hold the steering wheel with my hand, but basically there was no way to do it, so I just lost the steering wheel. I just had to recover and just come back to the pit."

Bourdais' third lap was good enough however to earn him the top spot on the day, giving him a front-row starting spot despite the fact that he had the third-fastest time overall. Under the series qualifying rules, the leader of each day of qualifying is guaranteed a front-row spot, giving Bourdais the second spot ahead of Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Junqueira would rely on his first-round time of 37.022 seconds (115.841 mph) to take the third spot on the grid, marking the third time this year that the 2002 series runner-up would start third. Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would also fall back on his first-round time to claim the fourth position on tomorrow's grid, although he was fourth-fastest in Sunday's final session as well.

Rocketsports Racing's Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) helped his cause with a strong Sunday run, vaulting from seventh to fifth on the grid with a best lap of 37.422 seconds (114.609 mph). The quick lap promoted Tagliani into the top five on the grid for the third straight event, marking the first time in Tagliani's four-year career that he has put together three consecutive top-five qualifying efforts.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start in the third row alongside Tagliani, as Mexican drivers hold down the sixth and seventh spots on the grid. Fernandez was chased Sunday by Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will start seventh on Monday, earning his best-ever starting spot, bettering his previous career high of eighth, which was earned earlier this year in Monterrey, Mexico. British hometown favorite Darren Manning (#15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent but would settle for eighth on the grid after failing to better his Saturday time. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) round out the top 10.

Tomorrow's 165-lap London Champ Car Trophy will begin at 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern) and can be followed live on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

Top-three Quotes:

PAUL TRACY: We don't know how long the tires are going to last here. I ran tires this morning for about 65 laps, and the cords were showing. It's a 160-lap race, so that doesn't equate to the number. It all depends on what happens. Another issue is the fuel mileage. Can you do the fuel mileage to do two stops, as well? The pace will be slower.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, actually this track you are really busy. It's just that we had the good ratios for some speed, and we were not expecting to be much quicker, and we were. So I just had to do the job a bit harder.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Today the morning didn't go well. We made some changes overnight. The car wasn't good this morning. We made a lot of change for qualifying. It was a little bit better, but still not as good a car as I had yesterday.

NOTEWORTHY:

* Paul Tracy earned his 14th career pole on Sunday, tying him with former series champions Bobby Unser and Juan Montoya for eighth on the all-time list.

* Darren Manning earned his best-ever Champ Car starting spot with an eighth-place qualifying run. Alex Yoong of Dale Coyne Racing also completed his best qualifying run and will start 13th in tomorrow's race.

* Twelve of the 19 drivers posted faster qualifying times in Sunday's session, but only five of the top 10 drivers were able to better their efforts.

* Sebastien Bourdais is the first rookie to earn three front-row starting spots in a season since Bruno Junqueira did it in 2001. He is also the first driver in CART history (1979-Present) to earn three front-row starting spots in the first four events of his career. Geoff Brabham took two front-row spots in his first three races and Danny Sullivan earned three-front-row spots in his first five Champ Car races.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Bobby Unser , Sébastien Bourdais , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing