CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Friday qualifying report

Bruno Junqueira paces CART Champ Car qualifying session for first time in 2003 season, takes first-day pole for Sunday's Grand Prix Of Monterey. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 13, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Bruno Junqueira paces CART Champ Car qualifying session for first time in 2003 season, takes first-day pole for Sunday's Grand Prix Of Monterey.

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 13, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has been a factor in nearly every qualifying session and race day along the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford trail, but had yet to lead a qualifying session despite the fact that he had earned three podium finishes and stood third in the championship points after six races.

Junqueira took care of that little oversight on a picture-perfect California Friday afternoon and did it in dramatic fashion as he flashed past starter J.D. Wilbur on his last lap of the day to complete a frenzied game of last-minute leapfrog, taking the top spot in the first day of qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Junqueira was the last of a trio of drivers that each posted the best time of the day within five seconds of each other as they followed each other around the 2.238-mile road course on their last qualifying laps. Junqueira was the last of the trio to cross the line as the checkered flag fell, but vaulted to the top of the chart in doing so, posting a lap of 1:10.040 (115.031 mph). The morning practice leader, Junqueira would earn a championship point for leading the Friday session, pulling himself into a tie for second in the season point standings.

"The car wasn't very good on the first outing of the session. I got a little bit of traffic that made it hard to get a good lap," Junqueira said. "Then for the second set of tires, we did a good change, and I have to thank TZ (Team Manager John Tzouanakis) that called me on the radio to find the gap and get my chance to put one lap."

The day's top lap dropped a pair of Player's/Forsythe Racing machines down a notch, but both Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would content themselves with spots in the top three.

Carpentier holds the second spot after the first day of qualifying after navigating the tricky road course in 1:10.314 (114.583 mph), a lap that was good enough for the pole for about two seconds before Junqueira followed him directly across the start/finish line.

"I looked at my display and saw that it was a pretty good lap, but since my crew didn't say anything right away, I figured either the guy ahead of me (Tracy) or the guy behind me (Junqueira) was faster," Carpentier said. "It was one of those deals where you celebrate for about two seconds."

Tracy led for much of the latter half of the session, and seemed to have caught a break when the twin entries of American Spirit Team Johansson both spun independent of each other in Turn One. The red flag brought out by the stalled cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) halted the session with less than 10 minutes to go. When the green flag waved with less than five minutes remaining in the session, the majority of the field all rolled out of the pits at once, creating a scenario that appeared to make it difficult for a driver to find the space needed for a flying lap for the pole.

But the veteran Tracy and the others would find the space they needed despite the tough conditions with Tracy putting up a best lap of 1:10.341 (114.539 mph) to lead the fast trio across the line, but would end his day in third after being passed in rapid-fire fashion by Carpentier and then Junqueira.

"I guess I should have held back a little longer," Tracy grinned. "We were all trying to create a gap for ourselves and people were holding back a little to find a way to get a good lap. I think this is a tough track to do really well on and we could see a lot of changes tomorrow and on race day."

A pair of rookies would round out the top five as Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) snared the fourth spot with a best lap of 1:10.701 (113.956 mph), while Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing's Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) came home as the fastest Reynard with a time of 1:10.753 (113.872 mph), a time that he put up in the first 10 minutes of the 40-minute session.

A trio of Mexican drivers was next on the speed sheets as Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), series points leader Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished sixth, seventh and eight respectively, with Vasser and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounding out the top 10.

There will be another CART Champ Car qualifying session on Saturday that will set the final grid, with the 40-minute session beginning at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time -- a session that can be seen on SPEED Channel starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.


Bruno Junqueira: I think it's kind of difficult because on qualifying, you just try to go fast. This time it's try to go fast and not think too much on the lap. The car was really good and I was able to get the good lap. The good thing is to be on the pole today."

Patrick Carpentier: "We tested well here during the winter. We have good exchange of information with Paul's team and Paul. It's going pretty well actually this year with the team. So I'm pretty happy. Beginning of the season was so-so. Now it's starting to be quite a bit better for us. To be at the front today here is a first for me during the race weekend. So it's very good."

Paul Tracy: "I gave it my best shot on the last lap. And I improved my time. I made a little mistake in the last corner. I locked the brakes going in, lost a little bit of time. But I think what you see up here now, the three guys, you know, we all put our best lap together on the last lap. So it was a fair qualifying session. Not where I want to be, but happy with third."


After finishing second in Friday qualifying, Patrick Carpentier is in line for his first-ever front-row starting spot at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In his five previous visits, Carpentier has qualified no higher than sixth.

In his first run of the season with the CART Champ Cars, two-time Laguna Seca winner Bryan Herta was 11th in Friday qualifying with a best time of 1:11.297 (113.003 mph) in the #27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone.

In his first run of the year with Dale Coyne Racing, Geoff Boss (#11 Cross Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 18th on the grid with a best time of 1:13.975 (108.912 mph)

Tiago Monteiro did not participate in Friday's qualifying session after he had contact with his #7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone in the 10-minute practice session that preceded the qualifying. The team elected to work on the primary car for tomorrow's final qualifying instead of bringing out its backup car.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Geoff Boss , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing