CHAMPCAR/CART: PacWest Mercedes just misses Cleveland pole

Mercedes-Benz driver Mauricio Gugelmin piloted his Nextel-sponsored PacWest Racing Champ Car to the third position on the grid for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland at the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport temporary racing circuit.

Mercedes-Benz driver Mauricio Gugelmin piloted his Nextel-sponsored PacWest Racing Champ Car to the third position on the grid for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland at the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport temporary racing circuit. Gugelmin missed grabbing the pole position at the very end of the final qualifying session today when his car ran out of fuel prior to crossing the start-finish line. His car's telemetry indicated he was running 0.2 seconds quicker than Roberto Moreno's pole-winning lap of 57.436 seconds (132.001 mph). Gugelmin was coasting by the time he got to the checkered flag, resulting in a time of 57.538 seconds (131.767 mph).

"I was cooking," said Gugelmin, who for a time during the session was the fastest qualifier in the field. "We had a yellow flag come out when Moreno spun out. We came in and put in just enough fuel to make another lap. It just wasn't quite enough.

"Mercedes has done a great job improving the engine, and the car is handling pretty well right now. I'm happy with where we're going to start. This is a unique track that has a lot of passing. I'm glad to be up front so we can have a clean start and hopefully have a clean race."

Joining Gugelmin in the top 10 on the grid is Bryan Herta, who is substituting for the injured Tony Kanaan in the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing/Mercedes-Benz. Herta's qualifying time of 57.671 seconds (131.463 mph) gives him the seventh starting position for Sunday's race, which begins at 1 p.m. (Eastern), and can be seen live on ABC.

"The comfort factor has been there from the get-go this weekend," said Herta, who wasn't able to do any testing prior to last weekend's race in Portland, Ore., his first time in Kanaan's seat. "Tony drives a car differently than I do, so we set up our cars very differently. Luckily, we learned some lessons last week and we made a big jump today. There's even more to come.

"The car I'm racing here was built in the paddock at Portland last weekend, so these guys have really had to work hard to get us to this point," Herta said. "I still don't know if my car is as good on old tires as some of the other guys', but we have a car that will be competitive tomorrow."

Qualifying 16th was Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate, Mark Blundell, driver of the Motorola/Mercedes-Benz. His best lap was 58.259 seconds (130.136 mph).

"I lost a little time in the last chicane, probably because I was trying too hard," said Blundell. "This track is very wide. There is plenty of room for passing. We ran quicker this morning, but we loosened the car up more than we meant to for qualifying. That was a little detrimental to our times. I'm happy so far, though."

Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports/Mercedes-Benz driver Michel Jourdain Jr. will start 20th, after running a qualifying lap of 58.941 seconds (128.630 mph). Starting 24th will be Arciero Project Racing/Hollywood driver Luiz Garcia Jr., who ran a 60.756-second lap (124.788 mph).

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn