CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Saturday qualifying report

JUSTIN WILSON SCORES HIS FIRST CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POLE TO LEAD A RuSPORT 1-2 QUALIFYING SWEEP IN PORTLAND PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 2005) -- Portland International Raceway is fast becoming a favorite stomping ground for Justin Wilson ( ...

JUSTIN WILSON SCORES HIS FIRST CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POLE TO LEAD A RuSPORT 1-2 QUALIFYING SWEEP IN PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 2005) -- Portland International Raceway is fast becoming a favorite stomping ground for Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Wilson scored his first top-five Champ Car finish a year ago on the 1.964-mile road course, and added another first to that legacy today when he earned his first Champ Car pole, as well as the first pole for his second-year RuSPORT team. He was joined at the top of the speed sheets by teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), leading the first 1-2 sweep in RuSPORT team history.

Wilson set a track record by leading Friday's qualifying at Portland, then celebrated as no one was able to better his effort in Saturday's final session, handing the second-year driver his first series pole. Wilson did more than just sit back and wait for things to come to him however, running the fastest lap in final-round qualifying to seal the deal. The cloud cover from Friday broke on Saturday and raised track temperatures, leading to slightly lower speeds on a day when just four drivers were able to improve their times from Friday.

The lanky Brit prevailed over an incident-filled session that included a red flag for a facility-wide power failure, then ended a couple of minutes early when a Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) accident brought out the scarlet banner.

Wilson was the beneficiary of the early stoppage as several cars were on track looking for their fastest laps. The premature ending cemented Wilson's front-running status as his best lap of 57.808 seconds (122.308 mph) was quick enough to lead the session, giving the RuSPORT driver an extra championship point for pacing the day's proceedings. He bested Allmendinger by less than a tenth of a second as the Californian carded a best lap of 57.897 seconds (122.120 mph), a lap that was good enough to give Allmendinger his third career Champ Car start.

Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would up with the third-place starting spot despite running the fourth-best lap of the day, as his Friday time of 57.911 seconds (122.091 mph) stood up for a position on the inside of the second row. Tracy will start in the top three for the third consecutive season at Portland as the 29-time Champ Car race winner chases his first win on the challenging PIR layout.

Things got moving quickly as the green flag waved on the qualifying session with drivers getting into the 58-second range just four minutes into the session. Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first driver to better his Friday time, moving up a spot in the process, but his effort did little to spur on his Champ Car brethren. Warmer temperatures appeared to be keeping speeds down during the session, but with the day's championship point still up for grabs, drivers continued to attack the newly-revamped PIR course.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) jumped to the top of the queue after qualifying fourth on Friday, but was displaced by Allmendinger two minutes later. Unfortunately everything was displaced shortly after that when the power went out, keeping Champ Car Timing and Scoring from getting data from the track timing sensors. A number of cars had potential quick laps taken away by the outage, which resulted in a five-minute stoppage while the system was reset.

Champ Car Race Control added five minutes to the back end of the session and allowed an extra lap to the competitors that had been on course at the time of the stoppage, but the action lasted only five minutes before another red flag flew for the stricken car of Michael Valiante (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The Champ Car Safety Team got the action restarted quickly, allowing Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to improve his time with five minutes remaining in the session, albeit not enough to gain the former Champ Car titlewinner another spot on the grid.

Seventeen of the 18 drivers in the Champ Car field were on course in the final minutes of the session, vying for the elusive championship point as well as the front-row starting spot that came along with it, but Bremer's spin and impact with the tire wall put paid to everyone's efforts.

Tagliani matched a season-best by qualifying in the fourth spot while the third-best time of the day was not enough to help points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) climb from his fifth qualifying spot. Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) wound up sixth while Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start as the highest-qualifying rookie, gridding in the seventh spot.

Sunday's 105-lap Champ Car event will get underway at 12:45 p.m. local time, with live coverage on CBS Sports beginning at 12:30 Pacific Time (3:30 p.m. Eastern Time).

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:

Justin Wilson #9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "Obviously it feels very good to finally get the first pole and show what this team can do. We are very happy to be 1, 2. I think it also shows what we have been working towards and each weekend we just get more competitive, more confidence and able to go quicker, I am very excited and looking forward to the race tomorrow."

A.J. Allmendinger #10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "I think the team overall did a great job. We have been struggling a bit all weekend with the setup of the car even though we have been quick. I think especially today they did a great job because during practice we were probably at the worst that we have been all weekend and the guys did a fantastic job to figure it out, get it going in qualifying and I still think that we have a little work to do for the race tomorrow, but definitely today the car is at its best in qualifying and I am really looking forward to tomorrow."

Paul Tracy #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "The car was pretty good but the track was slower today so there wasn't much we could do. The cloud cover we kept hoping for showed up just after the checkered flag unfortunately. But we're in a good spot for the start tomorrow and the car is good on long runs so I'm optimistic for the race."

NOTEWORTHY

* Justin Wilson's championship point earned for leading today's session gives him 72 on the year, bringing him to within five points of series leader Sebastien Bourdais.

* Jimmy Vasser qualified eighth for tomorrow's race, marking the 11th time in his last 12 Portland starts that Vasser has started in the top 10.

* Ricardo Sperafico earned a career-best starting spot by qualifying 14th for Sunday's race.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Michael Valiante , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Ronnie Bremer , Andrew Ranger , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing