CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Friday qualifying report

Defending Denver winner Bruno Junqueira sets new track record to lead first-day Cart Champ Car qualifying at Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver DENVER (August 29, 2003) - Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Defending Denver winner Bruno Junqueira sets new track record to lead first-day Cart Champ Car qualifying at Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver

DENVER (August 29, 2003) - Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) dominated nearly every aspect of last season's inaugural Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, as he won the pole and led all 100 laps en route to taking the checkered flag.

In Friday's opening round of qualifying for this year's stop along the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford calendar, Junqueira picked up where he left off as he set a new record around the 1.647-mile Denver street circuit, running a top lap of 1:01.438 (96.507 mph) to take the first-day pole for Sunday's race.

The event was the first street race of the season to use single-car qualifying, allowing cars to make their qualifying laps unencumbered by 18 other cars trying to claim the pole. The format will also be used in the September 28th Grand Prix Americas Presented by in Miami, and debuted today at Denver. The cars got three flying laps after one warm-up trip around the nine-turn Denver circuit, with competitors starting their warm-up laps as soon as the previous car completed his final lap.

Junqueira earned his 165th championship point of the season for pacing the qualifying session, closing to within 27 points of series leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who finished fourth on the day. Junqueira also guaranteed himself a front-row starting spot by leading the session, putting his Newman/Haas Racing machine on the front row for the sixth time this season.

The record-setting run knocked last year's Friday qualifying leader Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) off the pole as the Mexican veteran would end up settling for the second spot. Fernandez, who started second and finished fourth in Denver a year ago, snapped off the second-best lap of the day with an orbit of 1:01.583 (96.280 mph). He and Junqueira were the only drivers on the day to break the 96-mph average speed barrier, reversing their positions from a year ago when Fernandez led Junqueira in Friday qualifying.

The pair were joined on the provisional podium by rookie Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who had the best qualifying session of his rookie season after carding a time of 1:01.869 (95.835 mph) to snare the third spot. The British rookie, who announced sponsorship from earlier in the day, carried the new colors to what will be his team's best qualifying result of the year if he can make it hold up in Saturday's final round of qualifying.

Points leader Tracy had to content himself with the fourth spot on the provisional charts after earning a time of 1:02.056 (95.546 mph), a time that he posted after seeing his first run aborted by a red flag. The series leader rolled out for his warm-up lap while Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was coming back around after his session, but had to shut his run down when Dominguez crashed and brought out the red flag. Tracy came back in and waited while the Simple Green Champ Car Safety Team cleared the stricken Dominguez car, then went out to card his time.

Behind Tracy was the surprise of the day as Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five with a run of 1:02.100 (95.478 mph). Haberfeld was the last driver in the regular qualifying order to take a run at the pole, getting the last chance by virtue of the fact that he led all drivers in the morning practice sessions. Haberfeld could set a new personal best in final qualifying if he makes the fifth-place run stand up as his previous best road-course qualifying effort came in the year's first race when he started sixth and finished fourth.

Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rebounded from a first-session crash to card the sixth-best time of the day, putting himself above rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's/Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Bourdais and Monteiro placed seventh and eighth respectively on the first day of qualifying, placing themselves ahead of 1-2 Montreal finishers Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante/Centrix Financial Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The two veterans put themselves ahead of the American Spirit Team Johansson duo of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).

Former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made his debut in the Champ Car World Series on Friday, steering the PK Racing machine to the 17th spot in provisional qualifying. Dominguez would end up 16th in the order after the first day, owing to a penalty issued by CART Champ Car Stewards that cost him his fastest lap of the session. Dominguez was penalized pursuant to CART rule 6.10.5 that addresses cars that bring a halt to a qualifying session. The violation dropped the Mexican sophomore from 11th to 16th on the grid.

The final grid will be determined on Saturday's final qualifying, which gets underway at 1:45 p.m. local time. The qualifying session can be seen live on SPEED Channel, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.


Bruno Junqueira:

"We had the fastest car last year and despite the fact that we did not use much of our setup information from last year, we were quick today. The track was a lot smoother, especially in Turns 3 and 4 and the engineers told us that the suspension is working 29 percent less than it did last year, which proves that the track is smoother.

Adrian Fernandez:

"I'm very happy with our performance thus far. The track keeps improving through every session so we really can't complain. If it does in fact rain tomorrow, the track can't improve for us in final qualifying. So far the car has been very consistent, but the track is still coming around. We're always on the edge and we'll just continue that tomorrow."

Darren Manning:

"I brushed the wall a little bit on the last lap and that might have cost us a couple tenths but I feel good about what we accomplished today. Learning the track was not that much of a problem because in F3000 we only had a few laps on the track before qualifying and the race so you had to learn it quickly. It's an interesting street track and we are looking forward to tomorrow.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Mika Salo , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing