CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Friday qualifying report



MONTERREY, Mexico (May 20, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has figured out the fast way around the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park layout in his three years as a Champ Car driver, and didn't waste any time today in using that path to show his heels to the rest of the field.

Bourdais stormed through the first day of qualifying for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Roshfrans, leading the first session of practice by a margin of nearly a full second, before coming back during a very warm afternoon qualifying run to take first-day qualifying honors. His best lap of 1:14.967 (101.036 mph) topped the 19-car field and secured the Frenchman a spot in the front row for Sunday's 76-lap event, which will be Round 2 of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

The defending series champion has rolled from the pole in each of his first two visits to the Monterrey road track, and made a seemingly-effortless move to the front in today's qualifying. He needed just three laps around the 12-turn circuit to vault to the top of the queue, but then had to dig in his heels and fight off a number of challenges as the last minutes ticked away in the 35-minute session.

Like the track, Friday's qualifying session took a little time to get heated up, but the mercury climbed quickly for the Monterrey faithful as Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went out early and jumped to the top of the list, moving inside the 1:17 mark with a string of three consecutive fast laps. Dominguez had the company of his Forsythe Championship Racing stablemate Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as he hit the track for his first stint of qualifying, but Tracy would suffer through a rough day that left him last on the first-day results sheet.

Tracy spun roughly through the Turn Three grass, getting sideways and briefly airborne before recovering. He then experienced a similar ride through the Turn Four foliage on his next pass, prompting Champ Car's winningest active driver to pack it in early and wait for a shot at the pole in Saturday's final qualifying.

Meanwhile, Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) found his footing right away as well, taking six-tenths of a second off of Dominguez' effort to take the lead. As mentioned above, Bourdais moved to the top of the charts directly after, but Junqueira answered directly back with the weekend's first 100-mph lap to upend his Newman/Haas Racing teammate.

Dominguez got back in the mix a minute later, moving ahead of two-time Monterrey winner Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with a lap of 1:16.306 (99.263 mph), but he would lose that lap one orbit later when he stalled and required a tow-in from the Champ Car Safety Team. The red flag did not fly fast enough to slow Bourdais however, as he tripped the timing lights at 1:15.431 (100.415 mph) just before the stoppage to reclaim the point position.

The emerald banner restarted the action with six minutes to go as nearly every car still in the fray roared off pit lane for their final laps. The biggest immediate moves came out of the RuSPORT stable as Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started winding their way up the ladder. Wilson went from out of the top 10 to third in just two laps, then fought back on his last pass to upend Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), each of whom had moved into the third spot with just two minutes to go in the session.

The final minute of qualifying saw so many changes that Vasser was fifth on the grid at 2:59 p.m., but finally landed in ninth just sixty seconds later at 3:00 p.m. Meanwhile at the top, Junqueira made his last-ditch effort to stop Bourdais with a lap of 1:15.248 (100.659 mph), but Bourdais again was equal to the task, snapping off his fastest lap on his final trip of the day to snare first-day honors.

Bourdais widened his series lead to six points by leading Friday's qualifying, giving him a 35-29 lead over Paul Tracy. He also secures a spot in the front row for Sunday's race, although the rest of the field will have another shot in Saturday's final qualifying to end his pole streak

Wilson held on to the third spot ahead of Team Australia's Tagliani, but Tagliani's fourth-place qualifying result would be the best since 2001 for a car run out of the Indianapolis stable of Derrick Walker if it holds up through Saturday's final round. Dominguez rounded out the top five, nipping the day's top rookie Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by .026 seconds. Ranger scored the sixth spot ahead of Allmendinger, who took the seventh position ahead of rookie Timo Glock (Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Vasser and his PKV Racing teammate da Matta rounded out the top 10.

Saturday will feature the final round of qualifying for Sunday's race, with the fight for the Bridgestone Pole Award beginning at 2 p.m. Fans can see highlights from both days of qualifying Saturday night on SPEED Channel as the first Bridgestone Qualifying Show of the year hits the airwaves at 8:30 Eastern Time.


Sebastien Bourdais: "It is always difficult to qualify up front but my McDonald's car was setup very well today and we were able to put in a good lap. We think we have a car could enough to win as we proved last year, so we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Bruno Junqueira: "It's really competitive out there and it's important to start up front. You can pass cars here and the Cosworth Push-to-Pass button will be good but once you go off-line the track is really dirty so that will make passing difficult. The PacifiCare car was really good and we had a faster lap going at the end of the session but the car slid a little on me."

Justin Wilson: "It's really good to put in a strong qualifying effort. If you start at the back, you can pass cars and move up through the field, by the time you get up to the front the leaders have driven away. It is important to keep up with the leaders so you can make your move late in the race."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta