CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Friday qualifying report

de Ferran Wons de Beach By Jim DeFord (C) 1996 Trackside Internet Publishing, Inc. http:/www.trackside.com/ Gil de Ferran grabbed his first pole of the 1996 PPG Indy...

de Ferran Wons de Beach By Jim DeFord (C) 1996 Trackside Internet Publishing, Inc. http:/www.trackside.com/

Gil de Ferran grabbed his first pole of the 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series today at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a record lap time of: 52.208 seconds, and 109.639 mph.

"Normally your time on your first set of tires doesn't hold up," said de Ferran. "I knew I had to go out on my second set of tires and then Robby's engine blew and that was that."

The Goodyear Tire Company brought a new "option" compound to Long Beach and it has paid off with Goodyear's first pole of the year. But, the reliability of a new compound might make the difference on Sunday afternoon.

With yet another Honda on the pole, let us look back at the next four drivers:

Alex Zanardi is on the outside of the front row in the Target/Honda/Firestone machine.

"I think I could've gotten (de Ferran's) time for sure," said Zanardi, "but whether some of the others could have beaten it too, I don't know. I set the time on my first set of tires and it wasn't that good of a time. So we stopped and made a change that improved the car and I went back out on used tires and set a good time. Then we stopped and made another change that didn't improve the car, so we stopped and went back to the early set-up and had just put our second set of tires on when Robby blew up."

Vasser is third in yet another Honda/Firestone-shod effort, but again was subject to Gordon frying his engine in a big way.

"I was right behind Robby when his engine blew," said Vasser. "I went straight into the pits, because I knew they were going to throw the red flag...but they didn't. Maybe the track got a little bit better right at the end of the session, but I don't think we could've improved our time."

Paul Tracy qualified fourth, five positions ahead of fellow Penske/Mercedes driver, Al Unser Jr., with the best performance in a qualifying session for any Ilmor/Mercedes to date.

Yet again, the fastest Ford/Cosworth driver is Scott Pruett, who will start fifth, in the third row at the race on Sunday.

The first seventeen qualifiers are all within a second of one another. That equals major competition! Most drivers were confident they could have improved their times and starting positions.

Robby Gordon's engine failure put a huge damper on Saturday's session, and the Firestone teams are confident of their potential on Sunday.

"We can run laps at 53 seconds all day long," said Patrick Racing/Firestone shod - team manager, Steve Newey.

"Obviously I would have liked to qualify first," said Greg Moore. "There's the prestige of getting the pole and the benefit of not having traffic ahead of you at the start. But I think some of the guys just held their breath for one or two laps to get those times. We can do our times consistently."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Scott Pruett , Greg Moore