CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Qualifying report

Hometown favorite Alex Tagliani thrills capacity crowd by taking CART Champ Car World Series pole position for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal. MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 23, 2003) - Whereas most qualifying sessions in the Bridgestone...

Hometown favorite Alex Tagliani thrills capacity crowd by taking CART Champ Car World Series pole position for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal.

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 23, 2003) - Whereas most qualifying sessions in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford resemble 210mph chess matches, Saturday's final qualifying was more of a street fight with the heavyweight contenders of the CART Champ Car World Series trading haymakers like Lennox Lewis and Vitaly Klitschko.

Saturday's final round of qualifying for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal was the polar opposite of Friday's session that saw the majority of the teams choose to leave their cars on Pit Lane for the first 13 minutes of the session before taking to the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in a round that would be paced by Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The Champ Car pilots wasted no time on Saturday, leaving smoldering streaks of Bridgestone rubber on the Pit Lane as soon as the green flag flew, starting a session that kept the overflow Montreal crowd on the edges of their seats the entire afternoon. In the end, they would not need their seats at all as they stood en masse to cheer the polewinning performance of hometown favorite Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as he snared the fifth pole of his career.

Tagliani would end up pipping Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by .006 seconds to take his second pole of the season, running his fastest time on only his fifth lap of the day. The performance marked the first time this year that Tagliani and his rookie Rocketsports Racing crew would lead final qualifying, as he earned his pole at the Milwaukee Mile by virtue of his practice time after final qualifying there was rained out.

The big laps started hitting the speed sheets early as series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first car to leave Pit Lane. He was followed quickly by a quartet of machines which included rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who needed just three trips around the track to eclipse Servia's time and take the pole.

That would spark a furious flurry atop the time charts with Tracy and Bourdais exchanging the pole three times within two minutes, with Bourdais reclaiming the point on his fourth lap and lowering the top time even further on his next pass. The show did not end there however, as when Bourdais pitted, his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Junqueira took over.

The Road America winner needed just five orbits to knock Bourdais off the top of the hill, but likely heard his lead slip away before he saw it when the crowd erupted for the fast time of Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who moved to the first slot on his fifth lap. That lead would dissipate equally quickly under the onslaught of Montreal native Tagliani however, as his time of 1:19.665 (122.418 mph) propelled him to the top of the charts.

The drama continued in the second half of the session as Servia, Junqueira and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) battled to close the gap along with Carpentier, Bourdais and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Junqueira would come the closest with his lap of 1:19.671 (122.408 mph), but would end up .006 seconds back, while Jourdain would post the third-best time of the day. Servia would card the fourth-best time of the session but would still earn the best starting spot of his CART Champ Car career by virtue of having topped the Friday qualifying order.

Junqueira would settle for third on the grid despite just missing the pole, marking the second straight year he will start third in Montreal, while Jourdain will content himself with starting fourth for the second consecutive race. Carpentier made up for a very rough weekend to that point by qualifying fifth, taking a top-five spot despite being unable to qualify Friday because of engine trouble and surviving a spin and light contact during Saturday's morning practice session.

Bourdais will fill out the third row as the top-six qualifiers would find themselves separated by a mere .163 seconds while Vasser would place seventh ahead of points leader Tracy, who will start outside the top six for just the second time in the season's 14 races. Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will start ninth as he looks for his seventh consecutive top-10 finish, while Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

The second running of the Molson Indy Montreal will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern Time with 75 laps of warfare around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and can be seen in the United States on a same-day, tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel at 9 p.m.


Alex Tagliani: "Well, it's important to win the pole, you know. Our team is working very, very hard. We have very smart people on my team and we're learning. We are getting more data race after race. There's always a little improvement. Being on the pole really is very special for me. I think every time we can get a good result, it's a big relief for everyone."

Oriol Servia: "What happened actually, on the first set of tires, we went out and something broke. The undertray was on the ground a little. We solved that for the second set of tires, so we solved that problem. The car was not reacting very well on the first set of tires so we made some changes. We were still very close. I think we were like within a tenth of Tag, so it was good."

Bruno Junqueira: "The PacifiCare car was very good today and through all the weekend. As I said yesterday, I think I have a chance to fight with Oriol to get the pole. Today we fought. I was a little bit faster. But Tag just came on like a rocketship and ran 6/1000ths of a second faster than me."


* The gap of .006 seconds between Alex Tagliani and Bruno Junqueira for the pole position was the closest of the current season and the narrowest since last year's event at Chicago Motor Speedway when Tagliani fell to Dario Franchitti by a similar .006-second margin.

* Alex Tagliani last paced a final qualifying session in 2001 when he led Saturday qualifying at California Speedway, taking the pole with an average speed of 228.727 mph over eventual race winner Cristiano da Matta.

* Heading into his 200th career CART Champ Car start on Sunday, Jimmy Vasser earned his third top-seven starting spot of the year and his second in the last three races.

* Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 14th after withdrawing his first-round time which saw him qualify seventh on Friday. He went to the backup car after a frontal impact with the wall during Saturday morning practice.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Gilles Villeneuve , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain