CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Saturday report

Sebastien Bourdais Hangs Another Scorching Qualiyfing Performance on Champ Car Field to Win Pole for Sunday's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey MONTEREY, Calif. (September 11, 2004) -- Champ Car World Series qualifying sessions have been a ...

Sebastien Bourdais Hangs Another Scorching Qualiyfing Performance on Champ Car Field to Win Pole for Sunday's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 11, 2004) -- Champ Car World Series qualifying sessions have been a veritable playground for Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), and he found himself on top of the slide again Saturday after taking the pole for Sunday's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

Bourdais won his seventh pole of the season and will start in the front row for the ninth time in the year's 11 races after negotiating the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca layout in 1:09.358 (116.163 mph) on a brilliant summer Saturday in Monterey, California. He has captured four consecutive poles and with the championship point awarded for winning the pole, Bourdais has stretched the lead to 35 points over his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Despite the Bourdais qualifying dominance this year, the Flying Frenchman spent most of the day chasing the top spot and appeared to have lost his chance to win the pole when he drove through 150 yards of Monterey sand in Turn Two with seven minutes in the session. However, what appeared to be a momentum-killer ended up being the move that would keep him in the pole hunt. Rolling into Turn Two, Bourdais went hard to the brakes, momentarily locking the front wheel. Knowing that a continued slide on that locked wheel would ruin the tires and steal any chance he had of taking the pole, Bourdais eased off on the brakes, freed the wheel and rolled into the sand, keeping himself alive for the remainder of the session.

Undaunted after getting back on course, Bourdais gathered himself back up and snapped off two laps that were within .002 seconds of each other, both of which would have been good enough to put him on pole. His laps were enough to knock defending series champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) out of the front row, dropping him back to third despite the fact that the reigning Champ Car titlist put up the second-best time of the day.

Friday qualifying leader Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will join Bourdais in the front row by virtue of leading Friday's first round. Carpentier led the morning practice session on Saturday to back up his Friday performance, but would have to settle for the second starting position after carding just the fourth-best time of the final round. The start for Carpentier will be his best of the 2004 season and his best start since he won the pole at Laguna last season.

The qualifying action started quickly on another beautiful day at the picturesque Laguna Seca circuit as six cars hit the track at the drop of the session's green flag. Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first driver to make a major move, getting into the 69-second range on just his sixth lap. But it would take a full 15 minutes despite the early action before someone knocked Carpentier off the pole, with Hollister, California's A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) doing the honors.

That lap would stand for the next five minutes, only to see Bourdais move to the top spot on his first set of tires. He would stay there for the next 10 minutes as some cars took their best shots in vain, while others waited for their optimum opportunity. Forsythe Championship Racing's Tracy fired the first shot, leaping to the pole on his 13th lap, hanging his best time in his untested backup car, brought out after he crashed his primary car in the waning minutes of morning practice. The team pulled his Friday time off the board to give Tracy the backup, and he went out and dropped it in the third spot. Tracy's time held briefly as Bourdais made his aforementioned off-track run, but the Bourdais gambit worked perfectly as he came back on the next two laps and scored the pole.

The RuSPORT duo of Allmendinger and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put together their best day of the 2004 season, qualifying fourth and fifth respectively. Allmendinger snared the fourth position with a best lap of 1:09.567 (115.814 mph) while Jourdain earned his best qualifying position of the 2004 season after carding a time of 1:09.714 (115.569 mph). The effort marks the first time that both RuSPORT cars will start in the top five since the team joined the Champ Car World Series.

Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start in the sixth spot after putting up a lap of 1:09.790 (115.443 mph), putting him ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and current series runner-up Junqueira. The Brazilian will need a strong performance Sunday to stay in the title hunt as, if Bourdais leaves Laguna Seca with a series points lead of 37 points or more, that gives him the opportunity to clinch the 2004 Champ Car title in Las Vegas.

Vasser scored his first top-10 start since Road America after snaring the ninth position on the Sunday grid, followed by Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will start 10th as he tries to extend his streak of consecutive top-five finishes to four straight races.

As was the case on Friday, all of the rookies except Allmendinger finished as the final five cars on the grid. The one bright spot in the bunch was Rocketsports Racing's Guy Smith (#17 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who earned his best starting spot since joining the Champ Car World Series and will grid 14th for tomorrow's event.

Sunday's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey will get underway at 1 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday and can be seen live on Spike TV and on HDNet.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It took a lot of work for the McDonald's crew to make this happen. They have been working their butts off. My first run was pretty good but I made a few small mistakes. I came in and we made some changes to the car. The alternate Bridgestone tire is definitely a huge advantage but consistency is a major factor. In the race you will probably see drivers having two good stints and one difficult one. These cars are pretty difficult to learn about. For me, it's the knowledge of the race car that has led to our improved results. I won some poles (last year) but I was never really happy with the balance of the car. This year has been very productive and we have learned how to make the car comfortable for me."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "We had the speed, but I went off the track twice in the last lap, it was still a 1:09.6 but turn 2 I went off and then again in the corkscrew, we still did good and we still start second so it's pretty good"

PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "When I went off this morning, we did not think the car was that bad. From what I could see the front corner was bent, and the wing was off. However, something stuck underneath the car that caused a hole in the tub, destroying it completely. So we had to go to the spare, which was ready to go after switching a few parts. During our first run, I was just trying to get a feel for the car. We ran well, but on my second run, after putting on the softer tires, I was able to get a real good run, but we just couldn't catch Sebastien (Bourdais). I am looking forward to a good start tomorrow; it is a long race, so it will come down to keeping the pressure on and good fuel strategy. So we will see what happens tomorrow."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais is the first driver since Juan Montoya in 2000 to win four consecutive Champ Car poles. He is also the first driver since Cristiano da Matta to win as many as seven poles in a year. He is still within reach of Danny Sullivan's series record of nine poles in a season.

* Sebastien Bourdais has now qualified in the top three in each of his last 12 starts, eclipsing Alex Zanardi's Modern Era Champ Car record (1979-Present) of 11 consecutive top-three starts.

* Bourdais now has 12 career poles, tying him with the legendary Parnelli Jones for 19th on the all-time Champ Car polewinners list.

* Five of the last six Champ Car races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have been won from pole, with only Max Papis' victory in 2001 breaking that streak.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Guy Smith , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Mario Dominguez , Parnelli Jones , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain