CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Friday report

Alex Tagliani captures Milwaukee pole by virtue of top practice speeds as rain washes out CART Champ Car night qualifying MILWAUKEE (May 30, 2003) -- The first-ever nighttime CART Champ Car qualifying session scheduled for Friday night at the...

Alex Tagliani captures Milwaukee pole by virtue of top practice speeds as rain washes out CART Champ Car night qualifying

MILWAUKEE (May 30, 2003) -- The first-ever nighttime CART Champ Car qualifying session scheduled for Friday night at the Milwaukee Mile fell prey to a Wisconsin summer storm as rains blew in and cancelled the single-car qualifying session for the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage.

The rains brought a premature end to the day but the clouds did provide a ray of sunshine for the rookie Rocketsports Racing squad as Alex Tagliani (#33 Rocketsports Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) inherited the pole for Saturday night's Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford event.

Tagliani earned his fourth career Champ Car pole by virtue of having the quickest practice time of the day, turning a top lap of 20.882 seconds (177.914 mph) in the Friday afternoon practice at the 1.032-mile oval. The pole is the first for the Paul Gentilozzi-owned Rocketsports squad and the first for Tagliani since he paced qualifying at Fontana during the 2001 season. However, while Tagliani does take the pole, he does not get the championship point awarded for the top starter since the qualifying run did not take place.

"The winds were fluctuating a lot out there and I think we may have been lucky to catch a lap with no wind," Tagliani said. "But we made a good run and it was very important to us to do well here because it is one of the major headquarters for Johnson Controls and the team was really excited to do well for them here in Milwaukee."

Champ Car and Milwaukee Mile officials made a valiant effort to dry the track after an hour's worth of hard rain that began during the CART Toyota Atlantic qualifying session, but after more than an hour of circling the track with jet dryers and other safety trucks, Champ Car Race Control called an official end to the proceedings at 9:10 p.m. Central Time.

Tagliani shaved nearly a half-second off of his practice time from Thursday night to vault to the top of the charts, eclipsing the time set by Thursday pacesetter Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Jourdain's Thursday-leading time of 21.040 seconds (176.578 mph) would be good enough to hold up for a second-place starting spot, putting the Team Rahal driver on the front row for the second time this season. This will be the best oval-track starting spot for Jourdain in his eight-year career, eclipsing a previous best of third from Nazareth in 2001.

"Alex's time was really, really strong," Jourdain said. "I don't know if anyone was going to be able to beat him, but obviously we were going to try, we were going to make some changes from yesterday for tonight. Hopefully we could improve. In the end, I am really happy starting in the front row, and see what will go tomorrow, it will be a long race."

Jourdain's front-row starting spot breaks a Canadian logjam at the top of the grid as the Player's/Forsythe Racing duo of Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill the second row. Tracy's time of 21.075 seconds (176.285 mph) would secure him the third spot and mark the fifth time in the year's six races that the series co-leader has started in the top three and the first time since last year's Milwaukee event that Tracy has started an oval-track race in the top three.

"I was giving it everything I had in the practice today trying to catch Alex but I brushed the wall," Tracy said. "I'm disappointed that we didn't get a chance to run this evening but I think we have a good car for the race. The key is going to be keeping the handling good all night and as the temperature changes throughout the night you are going to be having to adjust all the time.

Carpentier would match his season-best starting spot with his fourth-place position while last year's polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top five with his Thursday run of 21.155 seconds (175.618 mph). Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent with a Thursday time of 21.212 seconds (175.146 mph) as eight of the top 10 drivers on Saturday night's starting grid would earns their spots by virtue of Thursday night times.

Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start seventh with series co-leader Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) starting on the outside of row four. Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will be the top rookie on the starting grid after posting a time of 21.282 seconds (174.570mph) to establish a new career-best starting spot while his teammate Mario Haberfeld (#34 Financial Times Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) improved on his Thursday night time to vault into the top 10 on the grid.

The Champ Cars will have a 30-minute warmup session on Saturday beginning at 4 p.m., with the 250-lap Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage taking place at 8 p.m. Central Time, with live coverage on SPEED Channel.


* Alex Tagliani's pole position is his first since Fontana in 2001 and is his best oval-track starting position since he qualified second last year at Chicago Motor Speedway.

* Michel Jourdain's second-place starting spot is his best on an oval, bettering a pair of third-place starting positions, one of them coming this year at EuroSpeedway Lausitz.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Paul Gentilozzi , Tiago Monteiro , Michel Jourdain