CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Saturday qualifying report

Bruno Junqueira retains poe for CART's return visit to Mexico City. MEXICO CITY (November 16, 2002) - Target Chip Ganassi Racing pilot Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Bruno Junqueira retains poe for CART's return visit to Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY (November 16, 2002) - Target Chip Ganassi Racing pilot Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Belo Horizonte, Brazil turned the fastest lap in a highly eventful final qualifying session for tomorrow's Gran Premio Telemex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa, but it would ultimately be the quick time he set in yesterday's provisional qualifying that earned him his fourth pole and sixth front-row start of the 2002 season.

The top-three spots remained unchanged from Saturday's first Champ Car qualifying session with Junqueira leading the way, followed by Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing and Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). Warmer weather conditions and three red-flag situations never allowed the thoroughbred racing machines to put together lap times that would eclipse yesterday's postings.

The major beneficiary of the offbeat session was Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/Worldcom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Mo Nunn Racing who turned in a fast time of 1:26.394 (116.091 mph/186.831 km/h) to pip 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal for the fourth starting position. Vasser will start fifth on the strength of his time of 1:26.703 (115.678 mph/186.165 km/h), even after he sat out final qualifying due to mechanical difficulties which sidelined him in the pre-qualifying practice session.

Walker Racing's Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) had a strong showing, turning the fastest lap 20 minutes into the scheduled 35-minute session. But after Franchitti edged him out for the spot on the speed chart, Takagi locked up the brakes hard and took a long, lazy sideways slide off course in Turn 16 that brought of the day's first stoppage.

After the green flag waved to resume the action, Kanaan wasted no time getting to the point, turning in a personal best lap with just eight minutes to go. But shortly after the flyer, Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone) of Team KOOL Green pulled off course in Turn 11 and exited his smoking vehicle, but not before laying down fluid on the racing line. Much to his dismay, teammate Franchitti suffered as a result of the track conditions, motoring through the area at speed and spinning off course into the Turn 11 barrier. As a result, Franchitti's machine sustained right-front and right-side damage and the session was halted once more with just 2:44 of green-flag time left.

Just after the session was restarted for the second time, Junqueira clocked in at 1:26.126 (116.703 mph/187.815 km/h) on his eighth of 15 allotted laps, a time that would prove to be tops in the second qualifier.

The red flag waved shortly after Junqueira's hot lap for a third and final time as recently-crowned 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series champion Cristiano da Matta (#1 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing spun in Turn 14 entering the unique baseball stadium portion of the 2.75-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Da Matta, who authored seven poles and as many wins this season, could not deliver another top spot and starts a season-worst 12th tomorrow.

The green flag made its final appearance with 41 seconds a minute remaining and offered the other competitors little hope of overtaking Junqueira's fast time. Junqueira earned his second championship point of the weekend after pacing provisional qualifying and will start tomorrow with his sights on edging out Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing, who qualified seventh, for second in the championship and the $500,000 prize that goes with it. Junqueira leads Carpentier by 5, followed by Franchitti just 12 markers back.

The CART FedEx Championship Series Gran Premio Telemex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa will take place Sunday afternoon, starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will be shown live on SPEED Channel.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE OVERALL QUALIFIERS:

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It feels great to be on the pole again today. The conditions were much more difficult today than they were yesterday. There were a lot of red flags and the track was very slippery when Paul (Tracy) lost his engine. I can't say enough about Team Target. They have worked very hard not only this weekend, but all year long. I hope that we can have a good race tomorrow and win the last race of the year."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Qualifying wasn't that big of an effort today because of all of the red flags that stopped the session. I'm pretty happy to be starting in the front row but unfortunately things didn't go as planned and I didn't get to go for pole position. I was really happy with the car this morning. I thought when it came down to the time to qualify, we had a good shot at it. Unfortunately it didn't go as planned and I didn't get to try for it. Things happened in the session that I didn't understand which added to the frustration. Like when the green flags came out after the red flags. No one was able to get into a rhythm and put any laps together. I will drive my very best to finish as good as possible tomorrow since I'm not going to be in CART next year. I hope everyone can be civilized going into the first turn. There are a lot of guys that are going to be pushing as hard as they can because it's the last race. I'm sure it's going to be a fun race to drive and to watch."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Our objective today was to get the pole for Team KOOL Green, and we definitely had the car to do it. Twice I was on a really good lap - and lost them both. It's certainly not Paul's (Tracy) fault. I'm pretty disappointed with the officials, though. (Tora) Takagi spins in a pretty harmless place and they throw the red flag immediately, yet Paul left a massive slick of oil and other fluids on the track and they leave the track green. The car took a pretty big hit, and the guys are looking it over to see what we need to do."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Rookie Mario Dominguez took the best qualifying position of his career with a ninth place showing today. Dominguez' previous best starting position was 12th, which came in the season opener at Monterrey, and the event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in June.

* 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series champion Cristiano da Matta has his worst starting position of the season after qualifying 12th. Prior to this weekend, da Matta had not qualified outside the top eight positions.

* Rookies Luis Diaz and Andre Lotterer will make their respective Champ Car debuts in tomorrow's race. Lotterer will start from the 18th position, and Diaz will start 19th.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Andre Lotterer , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Luis Diaz , Mario Dominguez , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing