Moreno'S Late Charge Secures Pole For Honda Indy 300 SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 27, 2001) - Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing used a last lap charge to snatch the pole position from defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de ...
Moreno'S Late Charge Secures Pole For Honda Indy 300
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 27, 2001) - Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing used a last lap charge to snatch the pole position from defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske with just seconds remaining in Saturday's qualifying session for the Honda Indy 300 on Australia's Gold Coast (1 p.m. ET Sunday, tape delay, ESPN).
Before an enthusiastic gathering of 74,858 Champ Car fans, Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) put together a sizzling lap of 109.257 miles per hour (1 minute, 32.095 seconds) on the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit to earn the second pole position of his career and his first since last year at Cleveland. Moreno's pole-winning performance came as de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) - who had held the pole prior to Moreno's decisive lap - sat in the pits serving an eight-minute carryover penalty for causing a stoppage during an October 13 qualifying session at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Moreno will be seeking his third career FedEx Championship Series victory when the green flag falls at 2 p.m. local time Sunday. One of his triumphs came this season, at Vancouver last month.
De Ferran, thwarted in his bid to add a point to his FedEx Championship Series lead by winning the pole, will join Moreno on the front row following a lap of 108.889 mph (1:32.406). De Ferran takes a 179-153 lead over Kenny Brack of Team Rahal into Sunday's penultimate round of the championship, and can clinch his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title by winning the race or finishing ahead of Brack.
De Ferran's second-place qualifying effort extends a run that will see him start fourth or better for the eighth consecutive FedEx Championship Series event, dating to a pole at Mid-Ohio.
Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing qualified third at 108.717 mph (1:32.552). The qualifying effort is his best since earning an outside pole at Portland.
Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who was fourth at 108.655 mph (1:32.605) and his teammate, Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), who was fifth at 108.473 mph (1:32.760).
Brack (Shell Ford Lola) qualified 13th at 107.325 mph (1:33.753), while reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), whose 141 points make him the only other driver mathematically eligible to win the championship, qualified 11th at 107.643 mph (1:33.476).
Defending Honda Indy 300 champion Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) qualified 17th at 107.003 mph (1:34.035). He drove to victory from the 17th starting position last season.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
ROBERTO MORENO, Visteon Toyota Reynard: "Australia's always been very, very good to me. I got my first big win here in '81, beating people like [Formula One world champions] Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet, and I had two other wins here in Formula Three. I'm also very happy to be part of the 100th pole for Firestone, and apparently this is my 100th CART start. Although I'm getting old, I still have a young spirit. This morning, we started with a car that was okay, and we made maybe five changes and they all worked. On the first set [of tires] in qualifying, I caught Paul Tracy and had to back off on my quick lap. It was good to do the lap at the end of the session because the circuit always goes better and better. I don't think it was a surprise, because we've been very competitive. [Patrick Racing General Manager] Jim McGee told me when I crossed the line that I did that time, and I was very, very happy. It's been a long time since we've gotten the pole."
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Certainly, I knew that I had to really get out and do the first set, and then come in, change tires, and go again. There was no time to waste. I have to say that on the first set, I didn't do the best job. On the second set, we made a little wing change and it took the tires a little longer to come in, but when they came in, I got a good lap. I just kept going, and was having a very good lap when the red [flag] came out for [Patrick] Carpentier [who spun]. That's the way it goes. Moreno did a good job, but we had a good car and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline Kmart Toyota Lola: "After watching the first session, I was very concerned about red time, and actually when [Max] Papis crashed, I thought that was the end of the session. We knew we had a good car in our hands, and we knew that since this morning. I did a good lap early, but towards the end, I went out and we were already on our third or fourth lap on the tires. But I think we have a good car. Of course, we wanted to fight these other gentlemen for the pole, but unfortunately it was not our turn. But after kind of a downturn in the middle of the season, we seem to be picking up the pace since the two European races. Hopefully, we're getting closer to the pace we had at the beginning of the season."
* Roberto Moreno's pole position was the 100th CART pole for Firestone tires since the tire manufacturer returned to open-wheel racing at the start of the 1995 season. It comes as Moreno prepares to make his 100th career start in Sunday's Honda Indy 300.
* Roberto Moreno's pole was the third of the season for Toyota and its first since Mauricio Gugelmin's (Nextel PacWest Toyota) pole-winning effort at Cleveland in July.
* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion and current championship leader Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will make his fifth consecutive front-row start on Sunday, dating to a pole position in last month's American Memorial at Lausitz, Germany. Also included are back-to-back poles at Houston and Laguna Seca.
* Saturday's attendance of 74,858 brought the Honda Indy's three-day total attendance to 176,423, an increase of 14,318 over last year's three-day total of 162,105.
* According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin sustained a small chip fracture in his right hand during a single-car accident during qualifying Saturday. A decision on his status for the Honda Indy 300 will be made on Sunday.
* Sunday's Honda Indy 300 will represent the final opportunity for FedEx Championship Series pit crews to qualify for a berth in the $50,000 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shoot Out, to be held next Saturday, November 3, following qualifying for the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. Now in its third season, the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge was instituted in 1999 to recognize the efforts of the mechanics who build, maintain and service the race cars. Champ Car teams have competed all year, scoring points according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers, but based on least time spent in the pits at each CART event. The top four teams at the conclusion of Sunday's Honda Indy 300, along with the wildcard entry from the PacWest Racing Group car driven by Mauricio Gugelmin, will qualify for the season-ending Shoot Out. Gugelmin's crew earned its wildcard berth by spending the least time in the pits during the July 22 Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway. The shootout will consist of two timed pit stops per entrant, with the fastest time claiming the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Trophy and $50,000 in cash. Heading into Sunday's Honda Indy 300, the top four contenders for the Shoot Out include the Marlboro Team Penske crews of defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), with 150 and 140 points, respectively; the Sigma Autosport crew of Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), with 112 points; and the Team Rahal crew of Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) with 109 points. Still in contention for Shoot Out berths are the Newman/Haas Racing crew of Cristiano da Matta, fifth with 98 points, and the Fernandez Racing crew of Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), sixth with 90. The Team KOOL Green crew of Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) is the two-time defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champion.
WHAT'S ON TAP
The Honda Indy 300 will air via tape delay at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN.