CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Saturday qualifying report

Cristiano da Matta blisters Montreal'S Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve to win his sixth pole of the CART FedEx Championship Series season. MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 24, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta ( ...

Cristiano da Matta blisters Montreal'S Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve to win his sixth pole of the CART FedEx Championship Series season.

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 24, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) had only nine minutes of green-flag time at the end of Saturday's final qualifying session to make his mark on another overflow crowd at Montreal's Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, and the CART FedEx Championship Series points leader found a way to make the most of it.

Da Matta went out on the 2.709-mile circuit and turned three laps that would have each been good enough to give him the pole position for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal, the last one being a blistering 1:18.959 (123.512 mph/198.773 km/h) that would cement his sixth pole of the 2002 season. The Newman/Haas pilot established a new CART track record for the event and widened his series points lead to 45 with the pole, a feat that matched the six poles that Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) led the loop with after 20 races last season. Da Matta's bonus point for the pole was his 17th extra point of the season, leaving him just three shy of earning the scoring equivalent of a race win (20).

His trio of quick orbits would relegate Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) to the outside of the front row as the Scot earned his first front-row start since winning the Cleveland pole earlier this year with a lap of 1:19.334 (122.928 mph/197.834 km/h). Franchitti used the Saturday practice to his advantage, as did the Team KOOL Green staff, as the eight-time CART race winner vaulted from 14th in Friday's provisional session to capture the second spot on the grid.

The session got off to a normal start with drivers coming to grips with the warmer temperatures. Things would soon slow down however as Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would lose a gearbox and pull to a stop. Before CART Starter Jim Swintal could wave the scarlet banner however, Oriol Servia's (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) engine erupted in a cloud of smoke, stringing vital fluids down the straight to pit lane. The ensuing 22-minute cleanup would mean that the drivers would have nine minutes of green-flag time left after the restart to put up fast times, leading to a wild set of swaps atop the leaderboard.

Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would settle for the third spot during a session that saw him take a rough ride through the grass in Turns Eight and Nine during the qualifying run. The Brazilian sophomore will start in the top five for the ninth time in the season's 13 races, nailing down the third spot with a best lap of 1:19.347 (122.908 mph/197.801 km/h).

The pro-Canadian crowd got to cheer one of their own to the fourth spot in the field for Sunday's race as Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would earn his starting position with a best lap of 1:19.510 (122.656 mph/197.396 km/h). Carpentier has picked up the qualifying pace in the last month after a sluggish start, earning grid positions of fourth or better in three of the last five races after starting in the first two rows just once in the season's first eight events.

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing trio yielded a pair of qualifying top-fives for the eighth time in the year's 13 outings as Brack used a late run to take the fifth spot for Sunday's event. Team Rahal's Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) climbed four rungs on the ladder from Friday's provisional run as the 1996 CART champion earned his best starting spot since winning the Long Beach pole, snaring the sixth spot with a best lap of 1:19.704 (122.358 mph/196.915 km/h).

Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) made it three Target cars in the top seven as the New Zealander earned a grid position on the inside of the fourth row, with hometowner Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) moving in alongside in the eighth spot. Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) claimed his fourth top-10 qualifying result of the season with the ninth-best time as Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

The field will take the green flag for the inaugural Molson Indy Montreal Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, with the race to be carried live on SPEED Channel.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It feels good but I also didn't know what was coming behind me out there. When I did a 19.1 [1:19.100] I didn't know what would happen next with the other guys. I just kept pushing. The clock in my car stopped working so I had to go as fast as I could until I saw the checkered flag. My only concern was just to push it." (On the level of difficulty compared to other qualifying sessions this year) "This one was pretty difficult but I think the most difficult was at Elkhart Lake last weekend. It happened Friday because Bruno [Junqueira] got it [pole] back in Saturday's session. They are all difficult sessions, but this one wasn't the closest."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "After the weekend we had, second feels like a pretty good result. We made some gains this morning on older tires, so we didn't know how that would transfer into qualifying. I'm very happy to be second after all the struggles we've had this weekend." (On the Canadian fans and the huge turnout today) "It's pretty impressive when you see all the fans, with the stands full and the reaction to the Player's [Forsythe Racing] guys. They have a passion here. As drivers we love seeing that. What can I say? It's everything I'd hoped it would be."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "After the problems we had yesterday, I'm happy with the result today. I think we'll have to improve a bit for the race to put pressure on Cristiano. This morning I couldn't attack the corners and I had a problem braking. I talked to my engineers and we're working on it."

NOTEWORTHY:

* With eight drivers coming to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve having previous experience at the circuit in either Toyota Atlantic, Formula 1 or in the case of Paul Tracy - Formula Ford, the first three drivers on the starting grid for tomorrow's event Cristiano da Matta, Dario Franchitti and Bruno Junqueira all are making their first visits to the Montreal track this weekend.

* Three drivers would throw out their times from Friday's provisional qualifying session in order to roll out their backup cars for Saturday's final session. Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani each elected to wave their times at the beginning of the session, while Michael Andretti went to his #39X after losing a gearbox. Oriol Servia decided not to go to a backup car after losing his engine during the final session, and will start in the 14th spot after standing on his Friday time.

* Sunday's qualifying session was paced again by Cristiano da Matta, marking the 12th time in 20 road-course qualifying runs in which the Newman/Haas pilot has been on top of the charts.

* Despite the fact that Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has scored points in every race this season, he has done it from the rear of the field and will have to do so again on Sunday after qualifying 15th. Jourdain has not qualified in the top 10 since gridding 10th at Long Beach in Round 2.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing