Defending race champion Gil de Ferran captured the provisional pole for Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway, round eight of the CART FedEx Championship Series. De Ferran turned a qualifying lap of 58.586 seconds...
Defending race champion Gil de Ferran captured the provisional pole for Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway, round eight of the CART FedEx Championship Series. De Ferran turned a qualifying lap of 58.586 seconds (120.991 mph) around the 1.969-mile permanent road course to earn his ninth CART career pole.
At road courses and street circuits, CART divides the field into two groups for qualifying. All five Mercedes-Benz drivers were in the first group, and they found the track to be more slippery than it was during the morning practice session, evidenced by the slower overall lap times versus the morning time sheets.
"You couldn't get any grip at all," said Mauricio Gugelmin, the quickest Mercedes-Benz-powered driver. "You would run a 'hot' lap, but it would be two seconds off the morning's time. It makes it especially hard when you are making changes to the car for final qualifying. You don't know which changes are the right ones. And now the track is improving for the second group by the minute."
Gugelmin qualified 16th with a 60.711-second lap (116.756 mph). PacWest Racing teammate Mark Blundell, who won the 1997 race by edging out de Ferran by 0.027 seconds, qualified his Motorola Mercedes-Benz 17th (60.730 seconds/116.720 mph).
Michel Jourdain Jr. and the Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports team continued to make steady progress with the Mexican driver's Mercedes-powered race car. More than halfway through the first session, Jourdain Jr. jumped to the top of the Group One time sheets with his quick lap of 60.797 seconds (116.591 mph) before settling to the ninth row on the provisional grid.
"There wasn't much grip out there this afternoon," said Jourdain Jr. "We got some of it back, but we have more work to do. The team is working very, very hard, and we have some momentum right now. We had problems early in the season, but we are putting things together as a team very well the past three races, and I feel like we are not far away from getting the results that we want."
With Tony Kanaan recovering from injuries sustained in a Detroit qualifying crash, Mo Nunn Racing called upon Bryan Herta to substitute in the #55 Hollywood/Mercedes-Benz. Herta jumped into the cockpit Friday without any testing time and turned a 61.322-second lap (115.593 mph) to qualify 22nd. Luiz Garcia Jr. qualified 24th (61.540 seconds/115.184 mph) in his Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Group Mercedes. Final qualifying will be held Saturday at 1:45 p.m. PDT, and the green flag for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 waves Sunday at 1 p.m. PDT (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).