CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Friday qualifying report



LAS VEGAS (September 23, 2005) -- Last year's Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford sojourn to Vegas saw a pair of Newman/Haas Racing cars separated by just 0.066 seconds at the end of 166 laps as Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) nipped his teammate Bruno Junqueira in the sixth-closest race in series history.

Today on a breezy Friday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Newman/Haas duo of Bourdais and Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) did last year's breathtaking performance one better as Bourdais snared the pole for Saturday's Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 by just seven-thousandths of a second. The series points leader swept around the 1.5-mile LVMS oval in 26.381 seconds (204.693 mph) to score his fifth pole of the season and the 18th of his career. His polewinning performance scored him another championship point, giving him 277 on the season and widening his gap on second-placed Servia to 62 points with four laps to go.

Servia would content himself with second on the grid after carding a time of 26.388 seconds (204.638 mph) giving Newman/Haas its third 1-2 qualifying sweep in the last four races. The NHR duo will take the green for tomorrow's 166-lap event with a pair of PKV Racing machines hot on their tails, as Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill the second row after qualifying third and fourth respectively.

Bourdais led the two-hour morning practice session, earning him the right to make the final qualifying attempt of the day, but there were a number of surprisingly-strong performances going on ahead of him while he waited. Australian rookie Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took advantage of an extra bit of rookie practice to dial in his Team Australia machine, putting it on pole through the first half of the session. Running at the highest speed he has ever reached in a race car, Marshall checked in with a time of 26.974 seconds (200.193 mph), in a time that would eventually give him his best-ever Champ Car qualifying position.

Marshall held the pole until Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) hung a lap of 26.638 seconds (202.718 mph) on the board. But the two-time Champ Car race winner held the top spot on the scoring pylon just long enough to hold an interview though as rookie Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) nipped the Mexican veteran by just three-thousandths of a second.

Wirdheim would end up with the best qualifying result of his rookie campaign as he slotted into the fifth spot on the grid, marking the best starting spot for a rookie since Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started fourth in Cleveland.

The session saw a number of teams pull themselves out of the qualifying line to wait for optimal weather conditions to make their timed laps. Teams lined up in reverse order of their practice times to make their qualifying runs, and those that pulled themselves out when their numbers were called, dropped to the back of the line -- but lost one of their two qualifying laps. Six of the 18 cars made the decision to trade a lap for a later qualifying run, including the two PKV Racing machines, getting varying degrees of success for their efforts.

Rodolfo Lavin (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who finished fourth at LVMS a year ago, made his one lap count by taking the seventh spot with a time of 26.732 seconds (202.005 mph). Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took one trip around the oval and took the ninth spot, ending up one spot behind his RuSPORT teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The PKV Racing squad waited the longest before going out, hoping to catch the stray cloud bank to cool the track off a couple of vital degrees. The strategy ended up paying off as 2002 series champion da Matta snared the fourth position with a time of 26.632 seconds (202.764 mph), while Vasser became the only driver to come within a tenth of a second of the NHR pair, carding a best time of 26.477 seconds (203.951 mph) to earn the third spot on tomorrow's race grid. Vasser's third-place starting spot is his best since he scored the pole in Milwaukee back in June.

The field will take to the high-banked LVMS superspeedway oval for another 90-minute practice session under the lights beginning at 8 p.m. local time as the prepare for tomorrow's event, which is expected to get underway at approximately 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Saturday's race can be seen on next-day tape on SPEED Channel starting at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. For those that wish to follow the race live, log on to Race Director on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, The Race Director feature is free for this weekend's race, thanks to an agreement with Intel.


Jimmy Vasser: "The boys in the shop did a tremendous job over the last few weeks to try to make the cars as slippery as possible, even down to putting special waxes on the underwing. I think it shows in PKV, with myself and my teammate Cristiano da Matta on the second row, it shows a lot of hard work has paid off, at least for qualifying. I do know also we need to do a lot of work for our race setups tonight. We weren't all that happy in today's afternoon session. But, you know, all credit to the guys in the shop, they did a great job.

Oriol Servia: "The car was very good even with the wind. We knew that no other team was going to beat us, with or without wind strategy. We went out there with the big wind. It was very good. I'm just very happy. The car felt actually quite decent in traffic earlier, so I think once now we change it a little bit for the race, going to be even better. Again, the race is very long. Is the last lap that counts, so we need to get there safe. That's the main thing. Hopefully we can put the PacifiCare car again in the top of the podium. "

Sebastien Bourdais: "Well, it feels very good. It just felt like there was a mechanic on every single piece of tape on the car, you know, pushing me around. I think it's all to their credit what kind of performance we get in this qualifying. Kind of taking myself out of the picture really because in qualifying, just really put the foot down and it's all about the team effort. Obviously they proved to be extremely good at that. So during the race it's a bit different story, and you have to have a good ending in traffic. Hopefully we'll be able to achieve that again as well as we did last year. It should be a good race."


* Sebastien Bourdais won the 18th pole of his three-year Champ Car career today, moving him into a tie for 11th place all time with three-time series champion Bobby Rahal.

* Today's 0.007-second differential between the top-two qualifiers is the second-closest of the season. Paul Tracy nipped Cristiano da Matta in Cleveland by 0.005 seconds earlier this year.

* Paul Tracy saw his streak of consecutive top-five qualifying performances snapped at 10. His 14th-place qualifying run is his worst since he started 16th at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in 2003.

* Bourdais donated his $5,000 portion of today's Bridgestone Pole Award to the Champ Car Hurricane Relief efforts through the Red Cross


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Bjorn Wirdheim , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing