SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 14, 2000) - Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing bumped Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske off the pole just moments after de Ferran had claimed the position Saturday during a riveting climax to the ...
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 14, 2000) - Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing bumped Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske off the pole just moments after de Ferran had claimed the position Saturday during a riveting climax to the final qualifying session for the Honda Indy 300 on Australia's Gold Coast (midnight ET Sunday/late Saturday, live, ESPN).
Montoya claimed his seventh pole of the season and the 14th of his career with a lap of 109.701 miles per hour (1 minute, 31.722 seconds) on the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit. His effort capped off an enthralling final two minutes of qualifying, during which Montoya topped provisional pole-sitter de Ferran, surrendered the position, then regained it seconds later as the session concluded.
The 14th pole of his two-year career tied Montoya, the defending FedEx Championship Series champion, with Bobby Unser for seventh place in CART history. His seven poles this season are a series high. Montoya also earned a championship point for the effort, giving him 123 for the campaign, good for sixth place in the closely contested championship hunt.
De Ferran, the championship leader, starts alongside Montoya after a lap of 109.576 mph (1:31.827). He owns a 153-134 lead over Team KOOL Green's Paul Tracy entering Sunday's event, and could clinch the first championship of his six-year career should he win and lead the most laps Sunday.
Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) qualified fourth at 108.981 mph (1:32.328). He sits on the outside of an all-Team KOOL Green second row, as teammate and defending Honda Indy 300 champion Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) qualified third at 109.299 mph (1:32.059).
Tracy tops a group of eight drivers bunched within 17 points (134-117) heading into Sunday, all of whom are well within striking distance of de Ferran's lead, with as many as 43 points still available in the season's final two events.
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five qualifiers at 108.133 mph (1:33.052). He comes to Surfers Paradise, site of a 1996 victory from the pole, off a triumph in the most recent FedEx Championship Series event, two weeks ago on the streets of Houston, Tex.
JUAN MONTOYA , Target Toyota Lola: "It's really, really good. On just my second lap I went out and went as fast as I did yesterday, but there were lots of red flags. We came in and just improved the car as much as we could. If you can do one lap, you can do two, there's no magic. You've just got to go out and go as fast as you can and try to do it better than the last time. This is my last road course [race], and I'm really glad to be on the pole."
GIL de FERRAN , Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Those were exciting times. I knew I lost the pole because [team owner] Roger [Penske] said so on the radio, but I didn't know how much I needed. I had a little too much oversteer, but I still did a [one minute] 32.8 [second lap]. I hoped that would be enough. There was silence on the radio for a few seconds, and then they came back and told me Juan got the pole. I just didn't have enough. Every point counts and if I won the pole today I would be 20 points ahead instead of 19 points ahead. It's important, but it didn't happen today. I still feel like I have to race hard. I still feel I have to have good finishes and win races. I don't think playing the percentages is going to help me too much."
DARIO FRANCHITTI , KOOL Honda Reynard: "The conditions were definitely difficult because of all the rain. We really weren't able to do anything this morning in the rain, so when we went out to qualify, it was a bit of a guess. Then it was red flag ... red flag ... red flag. I went out and did a pretty good lap and I thought that would be about the maximum of what I could get out of the car. But on my last lap, I was going even quicker, and then I just made a mistake, so that was a bit frustrating. But the car's a lot better today than it was yesterday, so I'm looking forward to the race."
Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) earned his series-high seventh pole position of the season, and his second on a road or street course. His previous poles have come at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee, Chicago and Gateway - all ovals - and on the street course at Belle Isle. His seventh pole of the season equals the CART rookie record he set last year and ties him for sixth place in CART single season annals, with Bobby Unser (1979), Michael Andretti (1992) and Nigel Mansell (1993). Montoya will make his ninth front-row start of the season, including outside poles at Homestead and Rio de Janeiro.
Montoya's pole is the seventh of the season for Toyota - all recorded by Montoya - and ends a streak of four poles for Honda at Surfers Paradise.
Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) qualified on the front row for the ninth time this season. The run includes poles at Homestead, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Houston, and outside poles at Portland, Cleveland, Road America and Laguna Seca. He has qualified among the top five drivers in 15 of 19 events this season.
Dario Franchitti's (KOOL Honda Reynard) third-place qualifying result represented his seventh such effort among the top-four. The others include poles at Road America and Vancouver, an outside pole at Houston, third-place starts at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca and a fourth at Gateway. Franchitti is also a two-time polesitter at Surfers Paradise (1998 and '99), the defending race champion, and holds the track record, of 109.724 mph (1:31.703) established last year.