CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio; Alex Tagliani rules

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 28, 2000 Alex Tagliani became the first Team Player's driver to earn a pole position in his rookie FedEx CART Championship season today as he powered his way around the 1.864-mile Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway oval in...

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 28, 2000 Alex Tagliani became the first Team Player's driver to earn a pole position in his rookie FedEx CART Championship season today as he powered his way around the 1.864-mile Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway oval in a near-record 38.587 seconds in qualifying for Sunday's Rio 200.

The impressive Canadian driver was the last to qualify today, after posting the fastest time in the morning practice session. He put in his fastest lap in his second and final attempt, dislodging Juan Montoya from the pole and becoming only the 11th driver in CART history to win a pole in his rookie campaign. Ironically, Montoya was the last rookie to do so, achieving the feat last season.

Tagliani's teammate Memo Gidley, who is replacing the injured Patrick Carpentier, qualified on the sixth row of the grid, clocking a quick lap of 39.246 seconds.

The pole-winning time recorded by Tagliani was the second fastest in the five-year history of the event and was within .022 seconds of matching the record set last year by Christian Fittipaldi. The pole was the 14th for Team Player's in the CART series.

In collecting the one point that is awarded to a pole-sitter, Tagliani has already assured himself of notching points in each of his first three races. Tagliani, who was ninth in the season-opener at Homestead and fourth at Long Beach, is the first rookie to accomplish the feat since Jeff Andretti in 1991.

"The Player's crew has given me a great car all weekend and they really deserve this pole," remarked Tagliani. "After I had put in my first qualifying lap, Neil (Micklewright, the team's vice president of operations) told me I would need two-tenths of a second to get the pole.

"When I came out of corner 1 on my second lap, I knew it was going to be a good one. The car was so good, the only thing I really had to do was stay focused. Now, all that's left to do is win the first one."

The last CART rookie to win his first race after garnering his first pole was Brazil's Andre Ribeiro in 1993.

In clocking the 11th fastest time, Gidley improved by more than four-tenths of a second from the morning practice session.

"We took Alex's set-up and we found that it improved the car a lot," related Gidley. "Also, the car had much more grip this afternoon than it has this morning. Overall, we're very happy with the result, considering that we moved up from 21st."

Racing fans can watch the 108-lap Rio 200 live on The Sports Network at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Jeff Andretti , Emerson Fittipaldi , Andre Ribeiro