CHAMPCAR/CART: Jourdain gets first career pole at Long Beach

CHAMPCAR/CART: Jourdain gets first career pole at Long Beach

Michel Jourdain Jr. won the pole for the Grand Prix of Long Beach today with a fast lap of 1:08.177 seconds (103.981 mph.) This was Jourdain's first Champ Car pole and it comes on the track where he made his series debut in 1996. "My first pole,"...

Michel Jourdain Jr. won the pole for the Grand Prix of Long Beach today with a fast lap of 1:08.177 seconds (103.981 mph.) This was Jourdain's first Champ Car pole and it comes on the track where he made his series debut in 1996. "My first pole," commented a very happy Jourdain, "It is such a great feeling."

Michel Jourdain Jr..
Photo by Michael Kim.
Jourdain, at 26, is still one of the young guns of the Champ Car World Series, yet he is one of the most experienced drivers on the tour. His count of 122 starts is topped by only three of the series' drivers, Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser and fellow Mexican driver, Adrian Fernandez. In his second season with Team Rahal, Jourdain and engineer Ray Leto have clicked and second place finishes in the first two rounds of the season have them in a solid second place in the points.

Provisional polesitter Tracy had a frustrating session and will start the race from the outside of the front row, based on the guarantee he earned for the fastest time in Friday's first round of qualifying. Tracy waited out the first half of today's session while others laid down rubber on the temporary street circuit, and then brushed the wall on his first hot lap of the afternoon. A long wait in the pits while the Forsythe team replaced a bent rear suspension arm left him only a few minutes to make a try for the pole. In heavy late-session traffic, Tracy could manage only the sixth-fastest time.

Tracy found the good side of his shortened session though, saying: "We only ran one set of tires during qualifying, so I've done pretty well on tires this weekend. We've been able to save four sets of 'stickers' for the race, like Mexico." A similar advantage was one of the keys to Tracy's win in Monterrey in the last round of the Champ Car series.

Second fastest in today's final qualifying session was Rocketsports Racing's Alexandre Tagliani. Tagliani, who also started third in Monterrey, ran his fast lap just after the halfway point of the 40-minute session. The time held up for the top spot in the field until Jourdain beat it by less than two tenths of a second with just a few minutes remaining.

After being fastest in this morning's free practice period, Bruno Junqueira was disappointed to be only third fastest this afternoon. He blamed heavy traffic for his disappointment, saying: "There was probably two to three tenths of a second left in the car, but I wasn't able to get a clear lap."

For the first time in his young Champ Car career, Junqueira's teammate at Newman-Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais did not win the pole. Bourdais was still impressive however. His late-session fast lap left him just a tick behind his more experienced teammate on the tricky Long Beach streets. Like Junqueira, Bourdais thought he could have done better. "The performance of the car was there, but it is hard to have the right timing all of the time," he said.

Qualifying fifth today, and starting sixth tomorrow, was the second Forsythe Lola of Patrick Carpentier. Carpentier suffered from understeer/snap oversteer this afternoon, but planned to return to a more effective setup from earlier in the weekend to start the race. He was still encouraged, saying: "This is my best-ever starting position in Long Beach. Anything can happen on a street course and you have to be patient."

Like yesterday, the remainder of the field had most of the veterans lined up ahead of the rookies as the new drivers struggled to learn the nuances of the track. The final grid has a few surprises though. Walker Racing's British rookie, Darren Manning got the fastest time in a Reynard chassis and will start 10th alongside Roberto Moreno and a row behind Fernandez and Oriol Servia.

Also in a Reynard, Vasser had a tough afternoon. The lead driver for American Spirit Team Johansson had to have an engine gasket replaced, which caused him to miss the warm-up practice that preceded qualifying plus the first fifteen minutes of the session. While he eventually went faster than he had the day before, he could do no better than the outside of row seven, behind his rookie teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Patrick Lemari?.
Photo by John Francis.
Inside of Hunter-Reay for tomorrow's 1 pm (PDT) race start will be Mario Dominguez. Sharing the row with Vasser will be Patrick Lemarie, the rookie making a big improvement (three positions and nearly a second and a half) from yesterday.

In the two Reynards from the Conquest garage, Mario Haberfeld and Fittipaldi-Dingman racing's Tiago Monteiro occupy row eight of the grid. Rodolfo Lavin, in the second Walker Reynard from Corona Racing, didn't make it out for qualifying yesterday, but he still managed to out-qualify the two Dale Coyne Racing drivers, Joel Camathias and Alex Yoong, even with the missing session removing one chance for him to learn the course.

The Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised live on SPEED Channel at 4pm EDT.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Joel Camathias , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Oriol Servia , Alex Yoong , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain , Michael Kim
Teams Dale Coyne Racing