CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Saturday qualifying report

Sebastien Bourdais Sets New Track Record in Pacing Champ Car Qualifying for Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey MONTERREY, Mexico (May 22, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

Sebastien Bourdais Sets New Track Record in Pacing Champ Car Qualifying for Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 22, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led Friday Champ Car qualifying for Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, but due to new qualifying rules run on Friday, the Newman/Haas driver was not automatically locked into a front-row starting spot -- as had been the rule previously.

Undaunted, he went out Saturday and made his own rules, leading a group of six drivers that set a new track record around the 2.104-mile Fundidora Park circuit, pacing final qualifying with a time of 1:13.915 (102.474 mph) to score the pole for Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign.

Bourdais earned his first pole of the year and the sixth of his young career in leading Saturday's qualifying, setting his new track mark with 16 minutes to go in what was one of the most electrifying final sessions of the past few seasons.

Bourdais and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) traded fast laps like a pair of welterweights throwing punches midway through the session as the winners of the last two Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Awards swapped the top spot four times in a span of three minutes.

The flurry was halted when Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun and crashed near the pit entrance, leaving Bourdais atop the speed sheets when the green flag waved with 11 minutes to run in the 35-minute session. But no one would approach the lofty time set by the Frenchman, leaving him to lead the field to the green in Monterrey for the second consecutive campaign.

Dominguez would settle for second after putting up a fast lap of 1:14.343 (101.885 mph), earning the best starting spot of his three-year Champ Car career. This marks the first time that Dominguez has started in the top two rows, with his previous best starting spot being a fifth earned at Elkhart Lake.

The track record book came under fire early and often on a warm day in Monterrey as Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) needed just eight minutes to establish a new mark on a day where six drivers would better the existing track standard. Wilson would be the only driver to make a major move in the final minutes after the Gonzalez crash, vaulting to the third spot on the grid with a top lap of 1:14.354 (101.869 mph). The third position marked not only the highest starting spot of Wilson's young Champ Car career, but also the best ever for a driver from the second-year Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing stable.

Champ Car reverted back to the previous qualifying format after experimenting with some changes on Friday and the move provided immediate action when the final session started. Wilson, Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tarso Marques (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took advantage of a clear track to post early times, with Nelson Philippe (#17 LeasePlan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) following close behind.

It wasn't long before the majority of the field joined the early entries, leading to a flurry of action for the large gathering of Monterrey fans. Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) each flirted with the top spot briefly in the first half of the session but were soon relegated to the top five as Dominguez and Bourdais went to work.

Junqueira would eventually settle for fourth, marking the best starting spot of his four Monterrey starts as he posted a time of 1:14.405 (101.800 mph). Carpentier held on for fifth to also set a new personal Monterrey best grid position. Defending race winner and series points leader Tracy will start alongside Carpentier in the sixth spot.

Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his best Monterrey starting spot as well on Saturday after scoring the seventh position on the grid with a time of 1:15.183 (100.746 mph). He will start alongside Hunter-Reay, who carded the eighth-best time of the day.

The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Marques and Oriol Servia (#11 yoketv.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) provided the team with one of the best qualifying days in its long and stories history. Servia scored the ninth spot with a top time of 1:15.395 (100.463 mph) while Marques will grid in 10th after putting up an effort of 1:15.582 (100.214 mph). The effort marks the first time that a Dale Coyne driver has qualified in the top 10 since Gualter Salles achieved the feat in 1998.

Rookies made up the sixth row, each establish new career-best qualifying efforts. A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Gonzalez scored the 11th and 12th spots, Gonzalez earning the 12th spot despite his early crash.

The 72-lap Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey will take place Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. and can be seen on Spike TV, and fans will also be able to follow all of the action live on www.champcarworldseries.com with the new Race Director feature.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "This track is suiting me very well. We started very fast and remained consistent. We made minor changes to setup this weekend, however, made several improvements from last year. We have a great race car for tomorrow; we just need a trouble-free race and a clean start tomorrow."

MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The Herdez car was very good today. We keep improving as a team, we've grown together, we are at the best level, but we can't stop we need to work harder. We are competing against the best teams and the best drivers. Expectations for tomorrow are very good. We need to be very consistent and run a smooth race. We made very little changes to the car and are looking forward to tomorrow's race. I am very proud to represent my country and my sponsors on the front row of the starting grid tomorrow. I hope to give my countrymen and Herdez a win tomorrow."

JUSTIN WILSON (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The car was very good. We knew that we would have a challenge, Sebastien is very good. I made a few mistakes, but there is not time for excuses. Look forward to the race tomorrow and finishing strong."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais earned his sixth career pole in just his 20th Champ Car start, making him the first driver since Juan Montoya in 1999 to score six poles in his first 20 events.

* Oriol Servia and Tarso Marques both qualified in the top 10 for Dale Coyne Racing today, marking the first time in the long history of the Dale Coyne team that two of its drivers will start in the top 10 in the same race.

* By leading today's qualifying, Bourdais earned a championship point, giving him 29 on the year and tying him for second in the championship with Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira. Paul Tracy leads the series with 32 points.

-champcar-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Gualter Salles , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Roberto Gonzalez , Nelson Philippe , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing