CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Saturday qualifying report



MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2005) -- On a blisteringly hot day in Monterrey, Mexico where temperatures topped the 100-degree mark, Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took what appeared to be a leisurely approach to Saturday's final qualifying session for Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Roshfrans.

While some of the sport's biggest names hit the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park circuit as soon as the green flag flew over qualifying, Bourdais calmly waited until nearly 20 of the 35 minutes in the session before heading out on track, watching as Champ Car's finest took their best shots at the pole time that he had set on Friday.

Once on track, any traces of leisure evaporated as quickly as a puddle in the scorching Monterrey sun as Bourdais smashed his own track record in romping to his first pole of the young 2005 season. Bourdais actually put up two laps that broke the old track standard, with his fastest going into the record book as a time of 1:13.627 (102.875 mph). The pole position was the third in as many Monterrey trips for Bourdais, who won the 2004 event from the pole. It was also the 14th pole in the young career of the Flying Frenchman.

The record-breaking performance from Bourdais did not overshadow a strong performance from Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) however as the British sophomore matched a career high with a second-place grid position, taking the outside spot in the front row. The former FIA International F3000 champion earned his second career front-row starting spot after hanging a time of 1:14.204 (102.075 mph) on the board. He also started second in Cleveland a year ago, but was eliminated in a first-turn first-lap melee.

Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day third on the grid, rebounding after a grim Friday performance with a time of 1:14.321 (101.915 mph). Tracy was one of the drivers that rolled out at the very beginning of the qualifying session, taking advantage of a clear track to put up competitive times. The Canadian star vaulted to the pole on his eighth lap, emerging from a cloud of dust kicked up by Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to take the early lead.

Behind him, Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing stablemate Mario Dominguez (# 7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joined with Wilson to start working their way up the speed sheets. The Mexican gave his countrymen plenty to cheer about as the session hit the halfway point as he and Tracy had carded the top two times of the afternoon, while Bourdais continued to bide his time.

Bourdais and his teammate Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finally decided to join the fray with 17 minutes left in the session, but the run would last just one lap as Marshall spun and stopped on course, bringing out a red flag. The stoppage slowed the progress of the two Newman/Haas Racing pilots, but came at a fortuitous time for reigning Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who flashed across the line in a time of 1:14.500 (101.670 mph) to briefly take the top rung of the ladder.

The session restarted with 12 minutes to run, leaving drivers plenty of time to get their Bridgestone Potenzas up to temperature and ready for last-ditch shots at the pole. Tracy fired first to leapfrog Allmendinger while Bourdais ran two laps that were faster than his Friday time -- but not faster than Tracy. Dominguez and Oriol Servia (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) swapped the fifth spot with six minutes to run, but all eyes were on Bourdais as he ripped past the start/finish line with the new track record.

Wilson jumped to second directly after Bourdais went to the top, exhorting Bourdais on to lower his time further on his next pass. Tracy tried in vain on his last lap to better his third-place starting spot, but would be left to content himself with starting in the second row. The surprise of the day came in the fourth spot as Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gave his Team Australia machine a strong run, coming in with a best time of 1:14.342 (101.886 mph). Tagliani is the only Champ Car driver to have scored three top-fives at Monterrey and showed that he knows his way around the Fundidora course with a spirited effort on Saturday.

Junqueira would end up fifth with Dominguez joining him in the third row. Servia held on for seventh and will be joined in the fourth row by veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Vasser's PKV teammate Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will grid ninth with rookie Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounding out the top 10. Bremer was the top rookie qualifier on the day with his time of 1:15.258 (100.646 mph)

Tomorrow's 76-lap event from Fundidora Park will get underway at 2:45 p.m. local time (3:45 Eastern Time) and can be seen on a same-day, tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel at 11 p.m. Eastern.


Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I have a great feeling about this track and this race. You know it is going to be hot but we had strong balance in the car and I was able to put up a string of three good laps that were enough to take the pole. The Bridgestone tires have been great, we can't find much of a difference from set to set, so that helps you focus on the car."

Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "We worked on continually improving the car and I think we've made it pretty strong. I am a bit frustrated with people holding me up but I am happy with the way things are going."

Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): Í went out early because you never know what can happen here. I needed to get a good time on the board right away because of what happened yesterday. To rebound after being last yesterday and coming back to start third makes us pretty happy. I just have to find a rhythm and avoid mistakes in the race."


* A.J. Allmendinger was penalized for exceeding the 15-lap qualifying allotment, after running 16 laps in today's session. The violation cost Allmendinger his fastest lap of the day, removing his 1:14.500 effort from the books -- a lap that would have placed him fifth on the grid. He will start 11th.

* Sebastien Bourdais becomes the first driver since Bryan Herta to win three consecutive poles at the same track. Bourdais has taken pole every time he has visited Monterrey, Mexico. Herta turned the trick at Laguna Seca from 1997-99.

* Bourdais earned the 14th pole of his young career, tying him for 15th on the all-time Champ Car pole list. He is tied with Tony Bettenhausen, Don Branson, Tom Sneva and Juan Montoya on the list.

* The fourth-place grid spot attained by Alex Tagliani today marks the highest that a team from the Derrick Walker/Team Australia stable has qualified since 2001. Tora Takagi qualified third in Michigan after times were set via practice times due to a qualifying rainout.

* Oriol Servia will start seventh on Sunday, and has never started worse than 11th in his five trips to Monterrey.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Tom Sneva , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Ronnie Bremer , Tony Bettenhausen , Cristiano da Matta