Brazilian gun Bruno Junqueira has earned an important championship point and claimed the provisional pole after turning the fastest lap at 1:32.708 (108.634 mph) in Friday's qualifying race at Surfers Paradise. Junqueira, driving for Newman/Haas...
Brazilian gun Bruno Junqueira has earned an important championship point and claimed the provisional pole after turning the fastest lap at 1:32.708 (108.634 mph) in Friday's qualifying race at Surfers Paradise.
Junqueira, driving for Newman/Haas Racing, closed the gap to series leader Paul Tracy to a 28-point difference, putting the pressure on his rival for Sunday's race.
Of the win, Junqueira said "This is a really important weekend for me. Today was a good day and the PacifiCare car was very good. I went out and did a 1:33.4 in the first stint, but Tracy slowed down in front of me and then I had to pit. So we waited until eight or nine minutes to go and I put down a 1:33.1."
"Last year I lost the pole to Cristiano (da Matta) by .01-seconds and I didn't want that to happen again. I hope to get out this weekend close enough to Tracy to have a shot at winning the championship at Fontana. That is my goal."
Despite producing the second fastest time, Alex Tagliani of Johnson Controls will be forced to start from scratch again tomorrow, as his vehicle failed post-race inspection for being under the weight requirements. As a result, all of the drivers who posted slower times have been elevated by one place, with Junqueira's Newman/Haas team-mate, Sebastian Bourdais jumping to the second position and owner-driver Adrian Fernandez claiming the third spot.
Bourdais said he was happy with the first qualifying race, claiming a slight problem with his car had not posed any major concern for his team. "The pop-off valve stuck a little in our second stint, but we'll move on and go for it tomorrow. Apart from that, behind the wheel, everything is pretty good for us."
The French rookie, who clocked 1:33.321 (107.821 mph), has been turning heads since taking the pole on debut in the opening round of the series at St Petersburg in February, then backing it up with the same result in round two at Monterrey in Mexico.
Last year's winner Mario Dominguez, of Herdez Competition, said a brush with the wall in the morning's practice session may have contributed to his disappointing 11th place finish, but remains hopeful that the team can turn it around for Saturday's final qualifying race. "We're obviously not happy with 11th but I don't think we're that far off. We'll sit down with the engineers tonight and figure out what we need to do - I think a few tweaks here and there could make a big difference."