JUSTIN WILSON LEADS A RuSPORT 1-2 SWEEP OF FIRST-ROUND CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES QUALIFYING AT PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY PORTLAND (June 17, 2005) -- The second-year RuSPORT squad showed the quick way around Portland International Raceway...
JUSTIN WILSON LEADS A RuSPORT 1-2 SWEEP OF FIRST-ROUND CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES QUALIFYING AT PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
PORTLAND (June 17, 2005) -- The second-year RuSPORT squad showed the quick way around Portland International Raceway when the Champ Car World Series came here to test in April, and picked up right where it left off in Friday's first round of qualifying for Sunday's G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland as Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the first two spots on the results sheet.
Wilson set a new track record on the revamped 1.964-mile PIR layout, stopping the clocks at 57.597 seconds (122.756 mph) to lead a race-weekend qualifying session for the first time in his two-year Champ Car career. Wilson's effort guaranteed him a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race and also earned him a championship point, boosting his season total to 71 and bringing him to within six points of the series leader.
Wilson's effort led a RuSPORT march on the front row as Allmendinger slid into the second spot with a time of 57.816 seconds (122.291 mph). The result marked the first time that the RuSPORT squad has swept the top-two positions in a Champ Car session. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up third on the day, getting promoted to the third spot when series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) lost his fastest lap due to a rules violation.
Bourdais had carded the third-best lap of the session with a trip of 57.825 seconds (122.272 mph) but was penalized after qualifying for impeding one of Wilson's qualifying laps. The violation cost Bourdais his fastest lap and left him fifth on the speed sheets with a time of 57.989 (121.927 mph).
The weather cooperated during Friday's qualifying, yielding brighter skies after a morning session that saw intermittent rains keep speeds down. Allmendinger let everybody know right away that conditions were right for quick times, dropping a lap of 58.498 on the field on just his third lap. Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Wilson followed Allmendinger's lead with a couple of fast passes, setting the stage for an action-packed session.
Wilson moved to the top of the time charts on his sixth lap, but ran into brief trouble on his next pass when he and Bourdais nearly had contact coming into Turn One. Wilson lined up on the far left entering the first turn, while Bourdais came out of Pit Lane up the right side of the turn. The two converged in the center of the turn, forcing each of them to check up and lose momentum. After the session, Champ Car Race Control determined that Bourdais was at fault and took the action of penalizing Bourdais of his quickest time.
Both Bourdais and Wilson, along with Tracy, went under 58 seconds on their next laps to snare the top-three positions on the grid just before heading down Pit Lane for new sets of Bridgestone Potenzas. The initial flurry of action subsided briefly during the middle of the session, allowing those that were on track a chance to turn some quick laps without the worry of traffic. Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took full advantage of the situation, each climbing into the top five with 10 minutes to go.
Allmendinger started the late-session rush by dropping Bourdais from the pole, only to see Wilson eclipse the track record one minute later. Tagliani vaulted to fourth with a lap of 57.956 seconds (121.996 mph) after diving in for a quick tire change, while Tracy bolted on his alternate Bridgestone Potenzas for a last run at the top spot as he chases his first Portland victory. Things didn't end as hoped for the 29-time race winner however as he was unable to clear Turn One on each of his last two laps, and would end up settling for the fourth spot -- a spot that later turned into third on the provisional grid.
Tagliani ended his day in the fourth spot -- a qualifying position that would equal his career best at Portland if he can back it up in tomorrow's final qualifying. Bourdais rounded out the top five with the final sub 58-second lap of the day while Dominguez wound up sixth, which is where he started last year at PIR.
Ranger was the highest-finishing rookie on the day, standing seventh after the first round of qualifying with a time of 58.097 seconds (121.700 mph), coming in just ahead of veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Vasser was the last car on track during the qualifying session, but could not make up any ground on his final lap.
Rookie Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had one of the more impressive efforts of Friday's Champ Car action, putting himself ninth on the provisional grid after missing all of the morning practice. Bremer, who gained some Portland experience last year when he ran in the Toyota Atlantic doubleheader, put up a time of 58.331 seconds (121.212 mph) despite just running 13 laps on the day.
The final grid for Sunday's race will be set with Saturday's final qualifying, which starts at 2 p.m. local time. Sunday's race will begin at 12:45 p.m. local time (3:45 p.m. Eastern), and will be broadcast live on CBS Sports beginning at 3:30 p.m.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE DRIVERS
Justin Wilson #9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: ""We were good here in the testing and it gave me the confidence to go out and attack the course. This is a great result for the RuSPORT team and for me, but there is still more work for us to do. I'm happy now but I am sure I will have some changes to offer when I think about it. This takes a bit of the pressure off for tomorrow but we still want to get as many points as we can."
A.J. Allmendinger #10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "Normally I would be excited about second place but today I am a little disapointed. I thought we would be better today but second is still pretty decent I guess. I just think that I had a little more and hopefully I can figure it out for tomorrow. It is great for the team and for the guys but we have to be realistic, we have more to accomplish this weekend."
Paul Tracy #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "We were caught out a little bit when we went out for the second stint on the "reds" (soft alternate-compound Bridgestone Potenza tires). The car was balanced during the first stint and we timed it just exactly right before we went out for our second stint. I had good space on the track and was ready to put up some good laps but it seemed like we suddenly had quite a bit of understeer and I just couldn't put a lap together."