CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Saturday qualifying report

Bruno Junqueira rains on competitors' parade by taking Cart Champ Car World Series pole at Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver DENVER (August 30, 2003) - Storm clouds threatened the Denver area all day as the 750hp turbocharged machines of...

Bruno Junqueira rains on competitors' parade by taking Cart Champ Car World Series pole at Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver

DENVER (August 30, 2003) - Storm clouds threatened the Denver area all day as the 750hp turbocharged machines of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford navigated the 1.647-mile street course in preparation for Sunday's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver. The clouds occasionally dropped some of their watery cargo on the circuit but did not interfere with Saturday's final qualifying - until the end of the day.

The skies finally opened up at the tail end of Saturday's final qualifying session and wiped out the chances for Friday leaders Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to improve their times, but Junqueira would end up salvaging his second pole of the season as the intermittent rains kept the track just slick enough to keep the rest of the field at bay.

Junqueira's Friday track-record time of 61.438 seconds (96.507 mph) was enough to put him on pole for the seventh time in his career, allowing the Brazilian to take the pole without ever turning a wheel around the Denver street course. Seventeen of the 19 Champ Cars got a chance to make qualifying runs in the Saturday session, although a heavy Friday night rain and spotty Saturday showers kept grip at a minimum and kept times down in the single-car qualifying session.

The morning practice session yielded times that were faster than Junqueira's qualifying times, including an unofficial track record of 60.900 seconds set by Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). But the rain came again between the practice and qualifying, stealing what little grip there was and dropping speeds slightly.

But with a championship point and a front-row starting spot up for grabs despite the conditions, the drivers of the Champ Car World Series took their chances during their three qualifying laps, with Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) putting up a lap of 61.477 seconds (96.446 mph) to lead the way. Fernandez and Junqueira were the only drivers left in line to qualify when the rains finally took over, denying them the chance to better their times in the final session.

Junqueira would inherit the pole by virtue of his Friday time while Servia will start second for the second straight week after leading Saturday's session. Servia was also awarded a championship point for the effort, boosting his total to 94 on the year. Servia matches his career-best starting spot for the second consecutive week after starting and finishing second one week ago in Montreal.

Fernandez got the worst of the misfortune that the rains brought as he was denied the chance to better his time, and would fall to fourth on the grid as Servia and rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's/Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) vaulted ahead of Fernandez, who rolled off Pit Lane just as the rains started, forcing him to run down an escape lane during his first lap. His fourth-place starting spot however, is his best since he started third at Portland - a race the veteran driver would go on to win.

The surprise of the day came in the form of Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who posted the best qualifying effort of his rookie CART Champ Car season, earning the fifth starting spot on the grid with a lap of 61.628 seconds (96.210 mph) Monteiro's previous best had been ninth at Milwaukee and his best road or street course effort had been 10th on the Fundidora Park track in Monterrey, Mexico.

As they did on Friday, both Player's/Forsythe Racing cars had Turn 1 contact during the morning practice session but both rebounded in qualifying. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the team in the Saturday session with a time of 61.804 seconds (95.936 mph) to place sixth on the grid while series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would spin on a lap that appeared to have been enough to take the pole, and will grid ninth for Sunday's 106-lap event. The ninth-place starting spot marks the second week in a row that Tracy has started outside the top six, after having earned top-six starting spots in 12 of the year's first 13 events.

A pair of rookies will start seventh and eighth as Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Haberfeld locked down the spots between the two Player's machines. Manning fell back on his Friday time to take the seventh spot while Haberfeld improved his qualifying time on Saturday but could not reach his speed from the Saturday practice. The eighth-place spot is the best for the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing pilot since he started sixth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Montreal winner Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start 10th in Sunday's event as he looks to stay in the points hunt while Montreal polesitter Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will fill the sixth row.

The second running of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver will take place Sunday afternoon with 106 laps on the street course in the Colorado capital. The race will begin at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen on a tape-delayed basis later Sunday evening on SPEED Channel, with the pre-race broadcast beginning at 9:00 p.m.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

Bruno Junqueira:

"I don't think it was really lucky to be here after not going out today. I think the only other guy out there that could have beaten me was Adrian [Fernandez], but we were both penalized when the rains came. I wanted to try it and get another championship point, but the rain didn't let us go out unfortunately. We didn't even start the engine. I hope we can have a good race tomorrow and Oriol [Servia] will stay a car length away from me."

Oriol Servia:

"I'm actually a little bit upset it rained. I went out when the track was good. I wasn't happy yesterday but today we improved from ninth to second today so it's a good result and a good step forward. I think it's very slippery out there, we know that from the last 10 laps or so from last year's race. We'll see about the start, but we need to be consistent and strong and maybe we'll get that first win."

Sebastien Bourdais:

"I was seventh yesterday, sitting in P3 today. I think Newman/Haas Racing has done a great job putting me here. Track position will be key tomorrow so I'm pleased with this result. The single car qualifying is definitely the way to do it here. I'd like to see the 10 minute warmup added back into the session to get some heat in the tires, but there is always room for a few improvements."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing