All in the Family Christian Fittipaldi's first career pole comes at his uncle's race. By Marc Sproule RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Christian Fittipaldi picked a good place to earn his first CART pole. Qualifying next to last, he outpaced ...
All in the Family Christian Fittipaldi's first career pole comes at his uncle's race. By Marc Sproule RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Christian Fittipaldi picked a good place to earn his first CART pole. Qualifying next to last, he outpaced Dario Franchitti by nine-thousandths of a second at the race where his uncle Emerson Fittipaldi is the promoter. This gift to his uncle should help put fans in the stands.
"My car was perfect. It was really neutral," the Newman/Haas Racing driver said. "Now we have to work very hard tonight and make the right changes to the car for the race. I want to be back here again tomorrow, sitting in the middle," he said, referring to the spot reserved for the pole sitter, then the race winner in the press conferences.
This was the first pole on an oval for an American-built chassis in almost 17 years. It was the first pole for a Ford-Cosworth-powered car this season. His Big Kmart Swift put Firestone tires on pole for the fourth time in five races this season. His time was also a new track record at a speed of just a shade over 174 mph.
Even though he was disappointed by not being on pole, Franchitti didn't lose his sense of humor about his performance. "I'm a bit disappointed with qualifying, so now I'm waiting for a little backhand from Emmo," he said, implying the elder Fittipaldi should slip him a little cash for not bumping his nephew off pole. Franchitti, the last driver to go out, would have been quite unpopular with the heavily partisan crowd had he been one-hundredth of a second quicker.
Juan Montoya, whose warmup laps were quicker than the rest, looked like he might be the polesitter for the second race in a row. But the warmup was probably too quick.
"This is my first time here, and I pushed too hard," the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. "The car pushed in Turn 4, and that cost me time." How much time? He was nine-hundredths of a second shy of pole. It must be tough losing by that much time.
Gil de Ferran, another Brazilian who is also a crowd favorite, was fourth quickest and the first on Goodyear tires. He was also the third Honda driver in the top four. He was just a little over a tenth of a second shy of his second pole of the season.
Bryan Herta was the quicker of the two drivers from the Team Rahal stable. He garnered the fifth spot, a rather massive .361 seconds slower than Fittipaldi. He was also the fifth Firestone runner in the top five and the second Ford driver of the group.
Jimmy Vasser, Tony Kanaan, Tarso Marques, Patrick Carpentier and Greg Moore were the next five fastest. They were further off the pace than what has been the norm in the top 10. Vasser was nearly four-tenths off the pace; Kanaan was just marginally slower than that. Marques was a bit further off, but considerably quicker than his teammate Al Unser Jr. Marques was the fastest Mercedes qualifier, second fastest Goodyear runner and the fourth Brazilian in the top 10.
Player's Forsythe teammates Carpentier and Moore were separated by more than a tenth, and Moore was a massive six-tenths from the front. Of the top 10, only Fittipaldi was not in a Reynard chassis.
The spread in the top 10 is indicative of how difficult it can be to keep the gap down if you only have one session of practice. Get it right, or be pretty far off the pace. Being off the pace in qualifying may not be as big a handicap as usual. But this track has room enough for cars to race side by side. Don't be surprised if there's plenty of that tomorrow.