MOTEGI, Japan (May 12, 2000) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing took advantage Friday of some late-session misfortune befalling Team Rahal's Kenny Brack to claim the pole position for ...
MOTEGI, Japan (May 12, 2000) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing took advantage Friday of some late-session misfortune befalling Team Rahal's Kenny Brack to claim the pole position for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi motorsports complex.
Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), a 1999 CART All Star, secured his ninth career pole position and second of the season with a lap of 212.540 miles per hour (26.237 seconds) on the 1.559-mile oval. He will lead 24 starters to the green flag at noon local time Saturday (11 p.m. ET Friday) for the fourth race of the FedEx Championship Series.
Montoya, who earned a championship point for his pole-winning performance, was the 23rd driver to attempt a qualifying run and established his speed with only Brack remaining in the order. Almost immediately after taking the green flag for his qualifying effort, Brack's Ford-powered Reynard lost power. With barely eight minutes remaining in the scheduled qualifying window, Brack's team brought out its secondary car, and with only one qualifying lap allowed, put it on the outside of the front row at 211.283 mph (26.393 seconds).
The qualifying performance is a season-best for Brack, exceeding fourth at Rio de Janeiro.
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), Montoya's Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, qualified third at 210.788 mph (26.455 seconds).
Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing qualified fourth at 210.541 mph (26.486 seconds) and was followed by Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at 210.335 mph (26.512 seconds).
Twenty-one of the 24 qualifiers were separated by less than a second.
FedEx Championship Series points leader Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) qualified 20th at 206.671 mph (26.982 seconds). He holds a 48-42 lead over Vasser heading into Saturday's event.
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "I doubled my points! The car has been good since yesterday, but on my last morning, I couldn't get a good lap. The car was fine in qualifying; it's just that the headwind was killing everyone. I don't have any problems [with downshifting]. The car has been good all weekend and I'm looking forward to getting to my first pit stop."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "We kind of suspected that the engine was bad after this morning, but we crossed our fingers and hoped it would be all right. Obviously, it wasn't, but I cannot say enough for the team. To bring out the spare car and have it be close to the setup of the primary car was just fantastic. I think that all we were missing was a new set of tires."
JIMMY VASSER, Target Toyota Lola: "I was a little disappointed with the speed. We tried to trim the car out this morning but we were not able to get the downforce out and keep it balanced the way we wanted. So we had to put the downforce back in. I'm happy to be starting third. It's a 300-mile race, our longest other than the 500 milers, and I'm looking forward to it. I think we're looking strong for the race."
* Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) moved into sole possession of 12th place on the CART career pole list with nine. Teo Fabi, Nigel Mansell and Alex Zanardi are tied for ninth place with 10 career poles each. The qualifying effort was the sixth consecutive top-three performance for Montoya, extending to last year's third-place qualifying effort for the season finale at Fontana.
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) has qualified among the top seven drivers in all five of his qualifying performances this season.
* Della Penna Motorsports rookie Norberto Fontana (Della Penna VideoMatch Toyota Reynard), who was involved in a single-car accident in Friday's practice session, was held overnight at Dokkyo University Hospital in Mibu-Town, Tochigi for observation as a precaution. The CAT Scan of Fontana's head and neck were negative, according to Dr. Chris Pinderski of the CART Medical Team, but he will not compete in Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500. CART does not permit any driver who has lost consciousness to compete in that weekend's event. Pinderski said that Fontana briefly lost consciousness, but was awake and alert prior to the transport to Dokkyo.
* Twin Ring Motegi officials announced a crowd of more than 15,000 for Saturday's qualifying.