JUNQUEIRA, BRACK CARRY LOLA BADGE TO THIRD-ROW STARTS Difficult qualifying runs at Honda-owned Motegi track Honda has been trying to win a race at its purpose-built Twin Ring Motegi oval since 1998, yet has been stymied in three tries. The firm...
JUNQUEIRA, BRACK CARRY LOLA BADGE TO THIRD-ROW STARTS
Difficult qualifying runs at Honda-owned Motegi track
Honda has been trying to win a race at its purpose-built Twin Ring Motegi oval since 1998, yet has been stymied in three tries. The firm has upgraded its engines for this event, and captured the first two rows of the 25-car CART FedEx Championship Series grid to help accomplish that goal. That left slim pickings for drivers running Lola chassis, but Bruno Junqueira (#4 Team Target Lola/Toyota) and Kenny Brack (#8 Shell Lola/Ford) turned qualifying laps good enough to occupy third row of the grid, ruining the firm's attempt to place nine Reynard/Hondas in the first nine spots for tomorrow's Firestone Firehawk 500.
Junqueira's quick lap of 214.050mph (26.035 seconds) came mid-way in the 1.5-hour qualifying session. "It got a little windy and that slowed me down going into turn two," said the rookie. "I didn't think we'd take pole position today, but we have a very good starting position for the race and a very fast car," he grinned. Brack's sixth-place starting spot (213.976mph/26.044sec) is his first outside the front row this season, but he acknowledged, "I'd trade that streak for a win any day. We were having a problem in turn 1 with the bump, but I was finally flat (on the throttle) in qualifying this afternoon."
Surprising everyone but himself, Michel Jourdain Jr. starts seventh in the 201-lap contest tomorrow, lapping the 1.549-mile oval at 213.870mph (26.057sec) in his #16 Herdez Lola/Ford. "The Herdez team is very good and our car is very good," the young Mexican, who is making his 85th CART start this weekend acknowledged. "Every week we get stronger, and we know that as long as we stay focused and keep at it, the results will come our way." This effort marks Jourdain's third top ten start in four attempts.
Points leader Cristiano da Matta managed 12th starting slot. "I'm sure the car will be good in the race, but we just didn't have it for qualifying. I expected that after morning practice," he shrugged, "but in terms of race trim, I think we will be in the top three or four based on yesterday's practice." Da Matta's speed in his #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Lola/Toyota was good for third in Thursday's combined practice.
Temperatures rose for the start of qualifying this afternoon under partly cloudy skies, as air temps were 84 degrees and the track sizzled at 118. As the time trials came to a close, the winds increased, lowering the air temps by two degrees and track temps fell to 109 degrees. While Twin Ring Motegi is notorious for its changeable weather, partly-cloudy skies have been forecast for tomorrow's race.
-Lola Cars International Inc