CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Lola Cars Friday qualifying report

Fun for da Matta in provisional qualifying; pips Brack for top Friday time. Cristiano da Matta and Kenny Brack are back at it, battling for pole position in CART's 19th consecutive G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. These ...

Fun for da Matta in provisional qualifying; pips Brack for top Friday time.

Cristiano da Matta and Kenny Brack are back at it, battling for pole position in CART's 19th consecutive G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. These protagonists regularly swapped the lead throughout provisional qualifying on a mostly sunny, warm afternoon, with da Matta taking the top spot, touring the 1.969-mile road course at 59.083 seconds (119.974mph) in the #6 Chevron Lola/Toyota. He gained a point for the effort, increasing his lead in the standings to 6 over Michel Jourdain Jr., 14th in today's qualifying session with the #9 Gigante Lola/Ford.

"My car feels good and I'm having fun," da Matta explained after the hour-long session was complete. "Everything I ask of my engineers they give me! Me and Kenny are trying to extract the last little bit on each lap and that's a lot of fun, too." Brack, whose lap of 59.168 seconds (119.801mph) in the #12 Target Lola/Toyota was set on his 10th of 11 laps total, fell just .085 seconds short of da Matta's quick one. "We had a solid run today and I think we've found a really good road course setup. We'll just have to work at it," the Swede said.

Christian Fittipaldi, tossing the #11 Lilly Lola/Toyota around the 12-turn Portland road course was third today with a lap of 59.215 seconds (119.706mph). Fittipaldi, fastest in morning practice had "a pretty strong afternoon, but we were expecting to be a lot quicker. I'm not really delighted, but this is better than being down the grid and we're only a tenth off 'Shorty's pole position," referring to teammate da Matta. Fourth went to Dario Franchitti's #27 Team KOOL Green Lola/Honda, only his third race weekend utilizing the Lola/Honda package. "We're starting to get used to running the Lola. We obviously don't know everything but we are a lot closer," the Scot said.

Defending G.I. Joe's 200 victor Max Papis was unable to practice or qualify today due to "commercial issues" between his #22 Sigma Autosport Lola team and engine supplier Ford-Cosworth. Currently seventh in the point standings, Papis is "ready to race and mentally and physically fit to defend my title," the emotional Italian declared. With his absence, 18 cars participated in the qualifying session, with 14 setting times within one second. Lola drivers took first through fourth places and seventh through ninth after the hour of time trials were complete.

Saturday final qualifying commences at 1:45pm PDT and will be shown live on Speed Channel. Similar weather conditions have been predicted for tomorrow, with air temps in the high 70s and track temps around 125-128 degrees.

-lola-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain