CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Friday report

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates new sponsorship deal with McDonald's by carrying new colors to Cart Champ Car World Series pole in Cleveland CLEVELAND (July 4, 2003) Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates new sponsorship deal with McDonald's by carrying new colors to Cart Champ Car World Series pole in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (July 4, 2003) Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's/Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carried the colors of fast-food giant McDonald's to the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford drive-thru for the first time this year, and ended up picking up way more than a burger and fries as he rolled to the pole for Saturday night's U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix.

As he stated he would after leading Thursday night's practice session, Bourdais waited until late in the session to take the majority of his qualifying laps and the strategy paid off with his fourth pole of the year. The rookie points leader snapped off a pair of laps in the late going that were good enough for the pole, the final orbit of the day taking the top spot with a time of 58.014 seconds (130.686 mph). The fast laps came as the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport was bathed in the glow of Musco lighting as the session ended after the sun had sunk into the waves of Lake Erie.

"Yesterday during these conditions we had a very good car and we worked a lot on the setup, which achieved something very good," Bourdais said. "Didn't put a lap together after five laps, we had a red, so it was not -- things were not going so great. And the second run I started pretty late in the session and I had quite a lot of space to achieve something good so I took my time to get up to speed. I was not completely confident, but obviously we didn't have a big problem and were able to put quick laps at the very end."

Bourdais used only five laps through the first 25 minutes of the session, choosing to sit in Pit Lane while many of the other drivers went out and spent their qualifying allotment. Five of the drivers burned up their 15 laps before the session hit the halfway mark as a fast-moving set of clouds threatened to drop rain on the circuit. The track seemed very fast early as Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the field into the 58-second range just seven minutes into the session - a range that only two drivers hit in Thursday qualifying.

But despite the lower times, Bourdais stuck to his guns and waited the session out. Thursday qualifying leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) threatened early with a quick lap in the 58.7-second range but would end his day soon when a spin and stall brought out a red flag. With CART Champ Car rules meaning that Tracy would lose his best lap of the session, he fell back on the front-row spot that he earned Thursday and spent the rest of the night sitting on the pit wall.

"I got to Turn 1 and I split it halfway down the backstraight, I was a couple of tenths up on my quick lap and then I said, oh, this is going to be good, I am really going to push it," Tracy said. "And I went through 3, 4 and I was hard on it through 4 and flat, you know, holding the throttle down, then it just broke away from me. I spun, and caused a red, so we were going to have to -- on the second set of tires we were going to have to do two lap times to achieve one because we would lose our quick time. So we sat there for a little bit and thought about it and we just decided we're going to save the tires for the race and start on a set of stickers."

With Tracy sidelined and teammate Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stopped after going off in Turn One late in the session, Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the track to themselves 0x2022 and took full advantage. Bourdais ran his two fastest laps of the night while everyone else was on the sidelines, while Carpentier recovered from an early-session spin to vault into third place on the grid after a lap of 58.449 seconds (129.713 mph).

Carpentier's quick lap dropped Servia down to the fourth spot, where the Spaniard would equal his season-best starting spot. Servia pipped Junqueira to climb to the fourth spot on his last flying lap while Junqueira would put up his best effort just one lap before he went off into the runoff in Turn One. He would settle for the fifth spot in the order, one position ahead of his closest competitor in the championship Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Jourdain would earn the best starting spot in his eight trips to Cleveland with the sixth-place run however, slotting in ahead of the Rocketsports Racing machine of Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The Herdez cars of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would place eighth and ninth respectively while Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would lead the Reynard contingent by rounding out the top 10.

Bourdais would lengthen his rookie points lead to 12 over Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) by taking the pole, as Manning would settle for the 13th starting spot on the grid for Saturday's historic race.

The first nighttime road-course race in CART Champ Car history will get underway at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday and will be preceded by races in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. The race will be broadcast on CBS Sports Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

TOP THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:

I think I have always been a very good qualifier, there's no doubt about it. I did five poles out of six in Formula 3000 at the beginning of the year so there is no doubt about getting the best out of the tires. It is the package, the package between the engineers. I need to be thankful because I could not do it on my own.

PAUL TRACY:

I'm a little bit disappointed because we felt that we could have done better, but it just -- seems like the first day qualifying should be my day and that's a good day to do it on.

PATRICK CARPENTIER:

I was just pushing really hard and pushing maybe a little bit too early and the tire pressure was not up to what it was supposed to be and the car was really snappy. That lap came through. But the guys did a good change. I was struggling in corners 5 and 6 and the car wouldn't change direction. They did a bit of a change and it really helped me so I got through there faster.

NOTEWORTHY:

Tomorrow's event will mark the fourth time this year that Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy will start on the front row of a race and the third time that Bourdais has done it from the pole. In each of the previous three races, either Tracy or Bourdais has ended up winning the race. (Tracy in St. Pete and Monterrey 0x2022 Bourdais at Brands Hatch)

Tracy's lap of 58.712 seconds that he lost when he spun and brought out the red flag would have been good enough for seventh in the Friday session.

Seventeen of the 19 drivers on the grid got under 60 seconds on their qualifying runs with only Max Papis and Geoff Boss needing more than a minute to make their qualifying runs.

Bourdais was awarded a custom-made Gibson Guitar for winning the pole for Saturday's race. The guitar was awarded by Mark Quarles, Director of Alternative Sales with Gibson Guitars and Larry Benders, Vice-President Marketing and Sales for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Geoff Boss , Michel Jourdain