Fundidora Park Track Record Holder Sebastien Bourdais Paces Opening Champ Car Qualifying Session For Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2004) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series...
Fundidora Park Track Record Holder Sebastien Bourdais Paces Opening Champ Car Qualifying Session For Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey
MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2004) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford rolled out an experimental qualifying format for this weekend's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, but the Friday's result was the same as it had been the year before at Monterrey's Fundidora Park as Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led Friday Champ Car qualifying.
Bourdais, who set a track record in winning the pole for last year's Monterrey event, led Friday's final qualifying with a fastest time of 1:15.978 (99.692 mph). Under the new qualifying rules, which provided more on-track racing action for the Monterrey fans, Bourdais paced the first 15-minute session to earn entry into the day's final 10-car shootout. In the day's final session, which yielded a precious championship point for the day's fastest time, Bourdais was able to post the day's quickest time on his final trip around the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park layout to score the provisional pole. He earned a championship point and a place in Saturday's final pole shootout by leading Friday's qualifying, giving the Frenchman 28 points on the year.
The new rules split the field into two groups, with the five fastest drivers in each of the two sessions moving on to the day's final 10-car shootout. The format made for more drama in the early session as drivers fought for the spot that would transfer them into the final qualifying run. The first session saw Bourdais put up a quick time just as Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out a red flag with a spin through the infield grass. The green flag waved to restart with time to two more laps on the clock, resulting in a furious battle that saw Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) grab transfer spots on their final lap, bumping Oriol Servia (#11 yokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) out of the final five.
"We announced before this race that the qualifying system to be used was a special one-off qualifying for the fans in Monterrey, Mexico," said Executive Vice-President of Operations John Lopes. "Our main goal is to put on an exciting show for the fans. We feel that we accomplished that today and the fans enjoyed the show."
Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) paced the second session with a lap of 1:15.834 (99.881 mph), in a session that featured a strong performance by Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Wilson, who is running in just his second Champ Car event, advanced to the final session with a second-place finish, running quicker than defending series champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The second session ended a minute early when Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) slid into the Turn Four tires, but he would advance to the final session despite losing his fastest qualifying time due to bringing out the red flag.
The final session saw 2003 Monterrey podium sitter Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) take the early lead with a lap of 1:17.503 (97.730 mph), putting up that time just prior to a brief grass-cutting excursion through the Turn One complex. Bourdais made the same trip as Tagliani but also was able to recover smoothly and vault to the top of the charts on his next pass.
Things were not as easy for the series points leader. Tracy waited along with a handful of others before venturing out on the track, but spun outside of Turn Nine and would finish the day in the ninth spot. He would provisionally grid ahead of Haberfeld however, after the Walker Racing squad elected not to run in the day's final session after the brief contact at the end of the first qualifying run.
The green flag waved on the final session with four minutes to go and the drivers wasted no time in getting their final laps in. Bourdais would score the top spot, besting his Newman/Haas teammate Junqueira, who would settle for a time of 1:16.881 (98.521 mph). The Mi-Jack/Conquest squad celebrated their best qualifying effort of their two Champ Car seasons as the rookie Wilson scored the third-best time of the day, completing a trip around the 12-turn circuit in 1:16.983 (98.391 mph).
Tagliani settled for fourth, ahead of Herdez Competition's Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who has the top-placing Mexican driver on the day with a lap of 1:17.799 (97.359 mph). His Herdez teammate Hunter-Reay was next in sixth with Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scoring the seventh spot ahead of Jourdain.
The new qualifying format will put another twist on Saturday's final qualifying, as all 18 cars will run during a 30-minute session beginning at 1:45 p.m., with the top 10 drivers from that session -- or the top nine plus Bourdais -- competing in a Pole Shootout in which they will have seven laps to card their best time. The session will set the final grid for Sunday's 72-lap event, which begins at 3 p.m. Central Time and can be seen on Spike TV.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The McDonald's car has been very good since we first put it on the track this morning. I am happy with our end results today; however, it is a shame that we are not guaranteed a front row position for the start of the race. I am confident that we will be able to improve the car and our times for tomorrow and re-capture the pole during the final qualifying session. The Bridgestone tires are wearing very well here and the track is a lot cleaner compared to last year, so tomorrow should be another great run"
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 Pacificare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am happy with the car. The Pacificare car handled very well for me during both the practice and qualifying sessions. During the third segment in qualifying the red flag did not help us. I am a little frustrated because I was the fastest in my first qualifying segment and I was hoping to obtain the Championship point because every point helps. However, tomorrow is the most important day and I feel that we have a great shot at obtaining the pole."
JUSTIN WILSON (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "Generally I am very happy with our results. The first session went well and I am happy with the car setup. The second session went well also, however, it was a little difficult with the red flag coming out towards the end. We lost some of the back of the car, which will give us something to work on for tomorrow. I am confident we will have a good car for tomorrow to obtain a top starting position."
* Justin Wilson's third-place qualifying effort is the best run in a Champ Car qualifying session for the Mi-Jack/Conquest team, bettering a fourth-place result posted last season by Mario Haberfeld.
* Sebastien Bourdais closes to within four points of championship leader Paul Tracy by taking today's point. He has 28 for the season and trails only Tracy (32) and teammate Bruno Junqueira (29).