CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Saturday qualifying report

Michel Jourdain Jr. follows up first CART Champ Car victory and extends series lead by taking pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 14, 2003) -- Coming off of the first victory of his eight-year CART Champ Car...

Michel Jourdain Jr. follows up first CART Champ Car victory and extends series lead by taking pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey.

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 14, 2003) -- Coming off of the first victory of his eight-year CART Champ Car career, Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) could have been forgiven for taking it a bit easy in his next event, but the Team Rahal driver had a legacy of success to uphold as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford headed to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Jourdain's Team Rahal has had more than its share of successes at the 2.238-mile permanent road course, having won three poles and three races in its 11-year history, and team owner Bobby Rahal has four wins of his own as a driver before he started his own Champ Car team. With that legacy to follow, Jourdain went out and followed up on his first victory by taking the pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey, besting a 19-car field with a time of 1:09.530 (115.875 mph) -- a time that was .213 seconds quicker than the polewinning time of a year ago.

Jourdain followed the road less taken in rolling to his second career pole as he defied normal practice and stormed off of Pit Lane as soon as the green flag dropped on the 40-minute qualifying session. Usually, the veteran drivers will sit back and let some of the younger pilots go out early in the session and warm up the track, but Jourdain wanted the opportunity to run on a clear track and jumped on the course at the first opportunity.

"I had a mechanism on my car that dropped oil, so I had to get out there first ahead of everyone so it would work," joked Jourdain. "Really, I just wanted to avoid the traffic, because yesterday it was very tough for me to find the space to run a clear lap, especially at the end of the session."

In his first few laps, Jourdain would put up a time that would have stood up for the pole, although for good measure, the Mexican veteran went out and lowered his times again at the very end of the session to reach his best effort of 1:09.530 -- clinching his first-ever permanent road course pole after taking his first CART Champ Car pole earlier this year on the streets of Long Beach.

Friday qualifying leader Bruno Junqueira (#1 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start second in Sunday's event despite running just the fourth-best time on the day, starting second by virtue of his leading the first round of qualifying. Junqueira put up a time of 1:09.794 (115.437 mph) and will start on the front row for the first time in his three Laguna Seca starts.

"It might be that third is better than starting on the outside of the front row," Junqueira said. "Because there is not a lot of room out there in the first two turns. But we just have to make it through there and after that, it is a long race and we will have a chance to improve our standing all day."

Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fell victim to the CART rulebook as his time of 1:09.575 (115.800 mph) would have put him on the outside of the front row, but because Junqueira locked up the second spot with his Friday effort, Carpentier would have to content himself with a third-place starting spot. The qualifying result was the best of the season for Carpentier and yields his best-ever Laguna Seca starting spot as well.

"It is really starting to be a lot of fun out there because everybody is starting to find their way around and the times are starting to get really competitive," said Carpentier who is coming off of a Milwaukee race that saw him pick up his first podium finish of the 2003 season. "And we are really starting to feel good about what we are doing and it is starting to show in our results on the track."

Carpentier's teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would draw the fourth spot on the grid with a time of 1:09.671 (115.641 mph) while two-time 2003 racewinner Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five. Bourdais used his last pair of laps to vault into the top five as he struggled to get up to speed until his Newman/Haas team strapped on his final set of tires.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also made a late run as the minutes ticked off the qualifying clock, moving into the sixth spot with a time of 1:10.228 (114.723 mph). Fernandez has qualified in the top seven in six of the year's seven events and completed a Lola sweep of the first three rows.

A pair of Reynards in the hands of two rookies will fill the fourth row for Sunday's 87-lap event as Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) finished seventh and eighth respectively. Veterans Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will round out the top 10, giving Moreno his best starting spot since he gridded ninth at Long Beach.

Tomorrow's Grand Prix of Monterey, the seventh round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, will get underway at 12:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. Eastern), and can be seen live on CBS Sports.

TOP THREE STARTERS QUOTES:

Michel Jourdain Jr.: "Yesterday when we were seventh, I thought we could maybe be a little bit faster. Suddenly when I made my time, I was quite amazed. But I'm like, 'Okay.' I was just waiting for them to go out, and go out, and just see my name go down. Just holding on, holding on, holding on. Then when the checkered came out, I couldn't believe it."

Bruno Junqueira: "The car was really loose, really difficult to drive. It's a shame because the PacifiCare car has been good all the weekend. Just when I needed it most, maybe I made a mistake to ask for the change for the team. But that's all right. I think we have a consistent car for the race."

Patrick Carpentier: "It's going to be very interesting in the race, what kind of tires these guys going to have, and who uses more tires, who uses less during the week. That's going to make the race really interesting, especially at the end of the stint. The last five, ten laps, I think it's going to be fairly tough."

NOTEWORTHY

* Michel Jourdain Jr. becomes the second driver to win multiple poles this season, joining three-time polewinner Sebastien Bourdais in that category.

* Four of the last five CART Champ Car events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have been won from the pole. Max Papis' victory in 2001 was the only one not to come from a polesitter in the last five visits. Gil de Ferran won the 2001 pole but would finish third.

* Two-time Laguna Seca race winner Bryan Herta will start 13th in his first CART Champ Car start of the season, running a one-off with PK Racing.

* Oriol Servia suffered an accident during final qualifying, ending his session after just six laps when he went into the tire barrier in Turn Four. Servia was sixth in the order at the time of his accident, but would end the day in the 11th spot. His time of 1:10.506 that he lost by causing a red flag in qualifying would have been good enough to put him eighth on the starting grid.

* Tiago Monteiro did not participate in Friday's qualifying session due to an accident in the pre-qualifying practice, but did qualify 15th on Saturday in the #7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain