>From CART Media Relations Another day, another niche in the PPG CART World Series record book for that Italian qualifying machine named Alex Zanardi. Zanardi and his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda earned a record sixth consecutive...
>From CART Media Relations
Another day, another niche in the PPG CART World Series record book for that Italian qualifying machine named Alex Zanardi.
Zanardi and his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda earned a record sixth consecutive pole position Saturday during qualifying for Sunday's Sunbelt IndyCarnival Australia, the second event of the 1997 PPG CART World Series (1:30 p.m., ABC-TV, tape delay).
Zanardi claimed the record with a dramatic lap of 104.878 miles per hour during the final two minutes of his half-hour qualifying session. He crossed the start/finish line with under 20 seconds remaining in the session to edge past Paul Tracy (Penske Mercedes, 104.660 mph) and break the consecutive pole record previously shared with Mario Andretti (1984) and Danny Sullivan (1988).
Zanardi also extends his own record by making his 10th consecutive front-row start in Sunday's PPG CART World Series feature.
"It was a pretty dramatic lap for me," Zanardi said of the record-setter. "I had a big margin from yesterday [Friday, when Zanardi earned the provisional pole by more than a full mile per hour], which I thought I could count on, but I knew these guys were tough and that I'd have to work hard today.
"I knew I had no time left and that I had to do it at that point. When I came to Turn 11, I brushed the wall and lost a little bit of time. But it was enough today, and I was a little bit lucky, also."
Tracy, who leaped to the provisional pole just minutes before Zanardi's decisive lap, was pleased with the effort, though disappointed at being edged for the pole.
"I think we got ourselves on track during the last hour," Tracy said, "but there's still room for improvement. I thought I could have done a couple of corners better [during his best lap]. In the first two chicanes, I didn't do that well. But I was on the lap where I needed to do the time, and the rest of the lap went pretty well."
Defending PPG Cup champion Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) qualified third at 104.333 mph. "I feel pretty good," he said. "We had problems yesterday [Friday]. I think we came off the plane with a setup from outer space, but Alex was kind enough to open up his notebook and show us the fantastic setup Morris Nunn [Zanardi's engineer] had. It was a ton better. I like our chances. We're gonna be there."
Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) qualified fourth at 103.996 mph, followed by Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes). In an extreme oddity, Moore and Blundell posted exactly the same qualifying time, down to the thousandth of a second, but Moore was awarded the higher spot, based on the next best qualifying lap of Saturday's session.
Scott Pruett (Brahma Reynard Ford) qualified an impressive seventh in Brahma Sports teammate Raul Boesel's secondary car after encountering an engine problem early in Saturday's session. Pruett was third-fastest in the field during Friday's provisional qualifying.
Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), winner of the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, qualified 12th at 103.337 mph.
A total of 28 cars will take the green flag for Sunday's second of 17 events in the 1997 PPG CART World Series. The series moves to Long Beach, Calif. for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 13.