CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio de Janeiro qualifying report

>From CART Media Relations Gugelmin Leads Brazilian Front Row With impeccable timing, native Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin snagged his first career PPG CART World Series pole position Saturday during qualifying for Sunday's Hollywood Rio ...

>From CART Media Relations

Gugelmin Leads Brazilian Front Row

With impeccable timing, native Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin snagged his first career PPG CART World Series pole position Saturday during qualifying for Sunday's Hollywood Rio 400.

Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) led a blitzkrieg of 19 drivers who shattered the track qualifying record on the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway by registering a lap of 171.912 mph on the 1.864-mile oval. He and compatriot Roberto Moreno (Kmart/Budweiser Swift Ford) will lead a field of 28 drivers to the green flag Sunday at 1 p.m. local time for Round 5 of the PPG CART World Series.

The race will be carried on a tape-delay basis on ABC-TV, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET, and also will be seen by a worldwide television audience of more than 60 million viewers in 197 countries.

In addition to the 19 drivers who broke Alex Zanardi's year-old track qualifying standard of 167.084 mph, the top 17 were separated by less than a second. Gugelmin set the pace, bettering his previous career-best start of second, accomplished first at Miami in 1995 and equaled earlier this year at Homestead. The feat earned him the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award and he stands to win an additional $15,000 with a victory Sunday.

"I'm very happy with our performance today and with the way my team has been working since Day One," Gugelmin said. "The team has been competitive all year and the car is really working well. I'm very proud to be on the pole, with another Brazilian [driver] on the front row. It will make the sport better and better in Brazil."

Moreno also produced the best start of his PPG CART World Series career after qualifying second at 171.031 mph. It marks the first all-Brazilian front row since Raul Boesel and Emerson Fittipaldi qualified first and second, respectively, at The Milwaukee Mile on June 5, 1993.

Moreno is filling in for injured Christian Fittipaldi, who is recovering from a broken leg sustained April 6 at Australia.

"It's a fantastic feeling because it has happened so fast for me," Moreno said. "Unfortunately, Christian got hurt. Fortunately, it was not too serious, and it's a great opportunity for me. The Kmart/Budweiser team has done a great job to put up with me and I'm feeling more and more comfortable in the car."

Moreno, the 18th driver to make a qualifying attempt, sat on the provisional pole until being bettered by Gugelmin, who went 24th in the qualifying order.

"I had to have a moment to myself in the car," said Moreno, a Rio native who described his emotions following his qualifying effort in front of the hometown crowd. "It's been a long time since I've had a shot at the pole in any category. Once I got over that and got out of the car, it was so fantastic to see the crowd cheering for me."

Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) starts third after qualifying at 170.587 mph. In a qualifying oddity, he and Team Rahal teammate Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) posted exactly the same qualifying speed, but Rahal earned the upper berth by virtue of a faster secondary lap.

Herta will start fourth, followed by Paul Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), who qualified fifth at 170.531 mph.

"In Nazareth, I beat Brian by one one-thousandth of a second," Rahal said. "In Long Beach, he beat me by about the same margin. It's getting kind of ridiculous, frankly, but it tells us we have two good cars for tomorrow [Sunday], so we're happy with that."

PPG Cup points leader Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) starts sixth after qualifying at 170.509 mph. Scott Pruett (Brahma Reynard Ford), Andretti's closest pursuer in the championship race, qualified seventh at 170.371 mph. Andretti leads Pruett, 51-47, in the PPG Cup standings heading into Sunday's race.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Raul Boesel , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Scott Pruett , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi