Junqueira leads opening day Champ Car qualifying in Portland PORTLAND (June 18, 2004) 0x2022 Bruno Junqueira ( ...
Junqueira leads opening day Champ Car qualifying in Portland
PORTLAND (June 18, 2004) 0x2022 Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put in what amounted to a cameo appearance in first-round qualifying for Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, but he stole the show in his brief appearance Friday at Portland International Raceway.
The current Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader after three races, Junqueira blistered the field with a best lap of 59.266 seconds (119.603 mph) around the 1.969-mile road course to lead the way on an unseasonably warm day in Portland. The top lap came despite the fact that Junqueira ran just six of his 15 allotted qualifying orbits, with the best lap coming on just his third trip around the 12-turn course.
Junqueira's lap was nearly a half-second better than anyone else's effort on the day, giving the series leader an extra championship point for leading the season and guaranteeing him a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 94-lap event. The front-row starting spot will be the first that the Brazilian has earned at Portland, although he started third en route to a second-place finish in 2002. The championship point earned for leading the session gives the Newman/Haas pilot a two-point lead (77-75) over Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
"I really thought that the best anyone would do today would be maybe 59.3 seconds if everything was perfect," Junqueira said. "But I hit everything right, the Bridgestone tires held up perfectly and the PacifiCare car was right where we needed it to be."
Junqueira and his teammate Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it a 1-2 Newman/Haas sweep as Bourdais returned from a grueling weekend at Le Mans to post a best time of 59.718 seconds (118.698 mph). Following Junqueira's lead, Bourdais ran just five laps in qualifying with his best effort also coming on the third time by the start/finish line.
Looking for his first Portland win, Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put himself in the thick of the hunt with a best lap of 59.791 seconds (118.553 mph) to place third on the day. Tracy has earned three podium finishes in his 11 Portland starts including a runner-up placing a year ago, but has yet to taste victory champagne at Portland, making the Delta Park layout the only current track that Champ Cars have competed on five or more times where Tracy is yet to win. He showed the strength of his Forsythe Championship Racing squad with his third-place run, climbing into the top three despite the fact that his team had to change the differential, the gearbox and the engine on his car after the first practice.
Tracy was chased by the biggest surprise of the day as rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) posted the fourth-best time of the day with a best lap of 59.803 seconds (118.529 mph). Allmendinger, who earned his best Champ Car finish two weeks ago with a fifth-place run at Milwaukee, posted his best run on his penultimate lap of the day to slot into fourth of the first-day grid.
2003 Portland podium placer Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also used a late-session lap to climb into the top five. The Rocketsports Racing shoe put in 13 laps on the day and carded a top lap of 59.900 seconds (118.337 mph) with just three minutes left in the session to vault into fifth on the first-day speed sheets.
Rookie Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the best qualifying session of his short Champ Car World Series career, ending his day in the sixth position after posting a top lap of 1:00.081 (117.981 mph). Gonzalez, as did Allmendinger, went out early in the session while many others decided to wait for optimal track conditions, but the PKV Racing driver showed that waiting did not automatically yield top times as he posted his best result on his fifth pass.
Milwaukee winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stood seventh of the day, which is where he qualified a year ago while in his Reynard during his rookie Champ Car season, after carding a lap of 1:00.088 (117.967 mph). Hunter-Reay's Herdez teammate Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed him on the charts with a lap of 1:00.097 (117.949 mph), while Carpentier and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
The final grid will be set in Saturday's final qualifying, which takes place at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time. The session can be seen live on HDNet, and can also be followed with the use of the new Race Director feature available to fans on the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com.
QUOTES FROM TOP-THREE FINISHERS
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am very pleased with our results today. I got the best results from the PacifiCare car and the Bridgestone tires. On the lap that I posted my fastest time, I had no traffic and just pushed really hard. This is a good result and I look forward to final qualifying tomorrow and putting the PacifiCare car on the pole position for race day."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "We had a lot of problems this morning. I am surprised with our results this afternoon, it turned out to be a positive day in the end. The McDonald's car was good, however, Bruno is fast and I know we could not have caught him. We'll put up a fight tomorrow and try to get the McDonald's car on the front row.
PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "Overall, I am happy. I was actually quite surprised with the time I posted because the car was not the way we wanted it to be. After setting my fast lap of the session, we brought the car in to make changes to improve the car. However, those changes did not make the car any better. I was a little disappointed that we were not able to get the car faster, but overall happy we have the Indeck car in the top three. We will see what we can do tomorrow."