CHAMPCAR/CART: Da Matta dominates Portland qualifying

Cristiano da Matta surprised no-one by taking the pole position in style for tomorrow's Portland round of the CART championship. The Newman/Haas Lola Toyota driver has dominated all weekend, taking his second career pole position in as many weeks...

Cristiano da Matta surprised no-one by taking the pole position in style for tomorrow's Portland round of the CART championship. The Newman/Haas Lola Toyota driver has dominated all weekend, taking his second career pole position in as many weeks while Kenny Brack was once again second fastest to recreate the same front row of the grid as last weekend's Laguna Seca race.

Brack was able to improve throughout the session, but only used 13 of his allotted 15 laps to get within 0.284s of the flying da Matta. While the Brazilian celebrated his pole position, teammate Christian Fittipaldi was one of just one of three drivers who failed to improve his lap time today and will start in a fifth position.

Bruno Junqueira was third fastest in the second Ganassi car complaining of traffic, but it is hard to understand the Brazilian's complaints about Townsend Bell as he had 30 minutes of empty track to set his time.

Alex Tagliani was fourth fastest in his Players Reynard Cosworth, putting in a string of fast laps late in the 60-minute session to move him up the field. Townsend Bell continued to impress in his Patrick Reynard Toyota, taking the fifth fastest time of the day, giving him sixth position for the start of the race tomorrow.

Dario Franchitti starts from seventh position in his Team Green Lola Honda, while teammate Paul Tracy was busy throwing his steering wheel out of his car and storming off after his primary car developed a misfire late in the session losing him his final five laps of qualifying. The Canadian starts from ninth position, three positions ahead of technical partner Michael Andretti who seems to have found some grip at last in his Motorola car.

Tora Takagi was forced into his spare Walker Reynard Toyota, thus losing his time recorded yesterday and late in the session recorded a time good enough for eighth on the grid. The Japanese driver will undoubtedly be disappointed with his position, especially considering how fast he was in his primary car in practice this morning -- a time which if he could have repeated this afternoon, would have put him fourth on the grid.

Jimmy Vasser rounded out the top ten in what is proving to be a difficult weekend for team Rahal. Vasser went off twice in the morning practice session and again at the end of qualifying today. Thankfully CART opted not to throw the red flags with just two minutes remaining and the drivers were able to complete their timed runs. Michel Jourdain Jr has had an awful weekend in the second Rahal car, qualifying last but one in 17th place after engine problems. Points this weekend look unlikely for the one time championship leader.

Scott Dixon was 11th fastest in the third Ganassi car ahead of Andretti and the second Players car of Patrick Carpentier. Tony Kanaan hasn't been on the pace all weekend in his Mo Nunn car and starts back in 14th position.

Adrian Fernandez failed to improve on his qualifying time set yesterday and slumped to 15th fastest ahead of his teammate Shinji Nakano. The Mexican will not be happy with his teams performance so far this weekend, but he was not the only Mexican driver in real trouble at Portland.

With Michel Jourdain Jr starting in 17th place, the final qualifying position went to Mario Dominguez in his Herdez Competition, some six-tenths of a second slower than anyone. The Mexican Rookie admits that he is having trouble adapting to the Portland circuit, but even so, it is surprising to see the team so far back on the grid once again.

On another note, quite how long CART will stick with the 15-lap limit for qualifying remains to be seen. The principle behind this badly thought out idea is that it allows cars space on track, as they cannot all run at the same time. The reality is that the drivers remain in the pits until they can run their 15-lap stint. Today this meant that paying fans watched an empty green circuit for no less than 25 minutes of the 60 minutes session. If you're going to copy F1 rules, copy the right ones--.

Cristiano da Matta gains another championship point for his pole position today and it is hard to imagine anyone beating the Brazilian in tomorrow's 110-lap race. However, qualifying is one thing and the race itself is a very long affair -- especially as mixed weather reports that rain may well spice up the action -- ala 2001.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn