CHAMPCAR/CART: Lausitz: Qualifying report

KLETTWITZ, Germany (May 10, 2003) -- Bursting with the confidence that only a first win can bring, Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

KLETTWITZ, Germany (May 10, 2003) -- Bursting with the confidence that only a first win can bring, Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carried the momentum of last week's maiden Champ Car victory to EuroSpeedway Lausitz on Saturday and rolled to the pole for Sunday's German 500, leading a 1-2 Newman/Haas sweep for the fifth round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season.

Bourdais showed the way early in the day by leading a two-hour practice session, giving himself the chance to watch everyone else make their qualifying runs before he had to roll off. When he finally did go, he wasted little time in staking his claim, posting the best time of the day on the first of his two laps, and then lowering what would become a new track qualifying standard for the CART Champ Car World Series on his next orbit of the 2.023-mile superspeedway with a time of 37.000 seconds (196.832 mph).

The rookie's time gave him the pole ahead of teammate Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who would have to settle for a season-high second-place starting spot, giving the team a front-row sweep for the first time since Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy went 1-2 respectively for the team in Long Beach during the 1995 campaign. The pole is the third of the season for Bourdais, making him the first driver since Juan Montoya in 1999 to win as many as three poles in his rookie season. The pole run came as a bit of a surprise for Bourdais despite the strength he showed in practice, as the Champ Car rules that forced the team to run the same aerodynamic configuration from Brands Hatch had the rookie concerned over his chances.

"I think we had a very strong car since the beginning of this event," Bourdais said. "It was a big surprise, especially in qualifying, because we were so quick in Brands so we thought we didn't trim enough of the car because you all know that we had to keep the same configuration for this event about the choices on the downforce."

The run pipped Junqueira, who was left wondering after posting a lap of 37.211 seconds (195.716 mph) on his second effort. Junqueira would have to settle for a season-high starting spot and his first front-row start since the end of the 2002 season, but that was of little consolation to the Brazilian driver who scored four poles a year ago.

"I have no idea. Two-tenths here is like a lifetime," Junqueira said when asked about his qualifying run. "Our setups were really close and I was flat. I don't know. I carry a camera that may cause a little bit of drag, maybe half a tenth maximum, but the rest I don't know. Maybe the engine, we'll have to look and see what it was."

Third place on the grid would go initially to Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) after a run of 37.274 seconds (195.386 mph), but he would end his day by being banished to the back of the 19-car grid after failing technical inspection. The team was found to be in violation of the aerodynamic freeze put in place for the European races and were sent to the rear of the field for Sunday's race and was fined $10,000.

The penalty promoted Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) into the third spot after a time of 37.392 seconds (194.769 mph). Haberfeld was seventh in the qualifying order when he posted his best time, and held the pole as seven other drivers took their best shots -- including series point leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) - before finally yielding to Jourdain. Haberfeld earns the best starting spot of his young career and will be the top Reynard on the grid when Sunday's green flag waves at 2 p.m. local time.

Darren Manning (#15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) did not have the breakthrough run he was expecting at Brands Hatch last week, but may have a chance to make up for it on Sunday as he will start from the second row for the first time in his career. Manning was fifth-quickest in the day's practice and then backed that up with a trip at 37.532 seconds (194.042 mph) to score a career-high starting spot.

Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continues his march up the Champ Car ladder after finishing third last weekend at Brands Hatch. He qualified a career-best seventh on the English road course, and then did that one better on Saturday as he carded the sixth-best time at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. The sixth-place run would then become a fifth-place effort with Jourdain's penalty.

Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rang in with the seventh-best time, one spot ahead of one of the weekend's biggest surprises as rookie Rodolfo Lavin (#15 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) obliterated his previous career-best qualifying effort as he ended the session in the eighth spot. He would end the day being promoted even higher and will start seventh after Jourdain's violation, eclipsing his previous best starting spot of 17th. Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the ninth spot while rookie Patrick Lemarie (#27 Scientific Atlanta Ford- Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) established a new career-best starting spot with a 10th place run that became a ninth-place grid position with the penalty. The move also vaulted Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) into the top 10 on the starting grid for the first time since the season opener.

Sunday's German 500 will start at 2 p.m., and will be preceded by a very special set of exhibition laps run by Alex Zanardi (#66 Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who will be making his return to EuroSpeedway Lausitz. The race can be seen on a same-day tape-delayed basis on CBS Sports beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

TOP THREE QUOTES:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think that we had a good winter test, we learned a lot and especially me from the team. I think that time gave us a lot of confidence. Basically the Champ Car is just a big F3000 car with twice as much horsepower and twice as much downforce, it's a bit heavier. It's no big deal, you just need to improve yourself and get more and more precise and hopefully it will be like this all season.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: My run was OK, the car was pretty neutral, pretty good. I ran the short line all the way around and tried to get a good time.

MARIO HABERFELD: I have to credit my engineer, Andy Borme, for very good between the sessions. He made a lot of changes for qualifying and it worked out well. And my guys did a great job getting the car ready for the qualifying run. So we are pretty satisfied, overall, to start fourth. It will be my first oval race and I am sure it will be different for me and the other rookies. We plan to work on our race set up, finally, tomorrow in the warmup, and hope to have a good race."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Bourdais is the first Champ Car driver since Juan Montoya to win as many as three poles in his rookie year, although Montoya would go on to set a rookie record with seven poles in his 1999 championship season. Bourdais is the first driver since Nigel Mansell to win three poles in his first five starts, a feat that Mansell accomplished in his championship season of 1993.

* Five rookies will start in the top 10 Sunday, marking the first time that five rookies have started in the top 10 since 1983 when Teo Fabi (2nd), Derek Daly (5th), Al Unser Jr. (6th), John Paul Jr. (3rd) and Chris Kniefel (8th) started in the top 10 at Mid-Ohio.

The Team Rahal Champ Car entry driven by Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) failed post-qualifying technical inspection for Sunday's German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz and will start the race on the tail end of the grid after qualifying third this afternoon with a time of 37.274 seconds (195.386 mph).

CART Champ Car officials found the Team Rahal machine to be in violation of Rule 9.5.2H2 of the Champ Car Rule Book which states, "No addition of air ducts or modification of the filter mounting is allowed."

The violation will also result in a $10,000 fine for Team Rahal.

As per provisions allowed in the Champ Car Rule Book, Team Rahal has protested the disqualification. The protest is currently being heard by a panel of CART judges and an announcement of the decision will be made upon completion of the review.

-cart-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Lemarié , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Derek Daly , John Paul , Michel Jourdain