Cristiano da Matta took the provisional pole for the Long Beach GP. The Newman-Haas driver turned in the fast lap of 1:09.02 in the last two minutes of Friday's qualifying session. Da Matta's teammate, Christian Fittipaldi, had to settle for the...
Cristiano da Matta took the provisional pole for the Long Beach GP. The Newman-Haas driver turned in the fast lap of 1:09.02 in the last two minutes of Friday's qualifying session. Da Matta's teammate, Christian Fittipaldi, had to settle for the second position, just 0.128 behind. The session was very competitive, with the next 11 fastest drivers all within one second of da Matta's time.
Jimmy Vasser put his Team Rahal car in third, with teammate Michel Jourdain Jr. in fourth. Jourdain's fastest time was disallowed because he exceeded the maximum 15 laps allowed for each qualifying session, but his next-fastest time was still good enough for him to keep fourth position.
Da Matta has not gotten a pole in his previous CART races, but he expressed confidence that he and his teammate would be competing for the pole in tomorrow's final session. He said, "In Mexico, we had, not a big advantage, but a 'comfort' advantage over the other guys, so it's good to see that we are still in good shape."
Fittipaldi said that his team had "improved the back end this afternoon more than we expected, so we had a little push, but the car was good overall."
Target Ganassi Racing's Bruno Junqueira was fifth fastest, and complained of understeer during qualifying. "We'll be able to balance the car better for tomorrow and I think we'll have a shot for the pole." His teammate, Kenny Brack, was fast early in the session but fell back to eighth in the final order.
Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan had the fastest Reynard chassis and the fastest Honda-powered car in the session in sixth. Walker Racing driver Tora Takagi, third fastest in the morning practice session, was tenth.
The CART teams are still struggling to understand all the implications of this year's new qualifying rules. The drivers said that they can only count on 4 to 5 good laps with fully-warmed tires, because the in lap and out lap on each set of tires is counted in the total and the tires are not fully up to temperature for the first lap or two. Vasser said that the new rules are a little crazy "I had some fans yelling at me from across the track: 'Dude, get in the car! ' I think for the first 20 minutes, we need some jugglers or some fire-eaters on the front straight to keep the fans happy." Da Matta was asked how his team decided when to go out and he replied: "We're not allowed to say...(but) we don't want to be the first guys out."