CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Saturday report

Newman/Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais Scores His Fourth Champ Car Pole of the Season After Leading Final Qualifying For Sunday's Grand Prix Of Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

Newman/Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais Scores His Fourth Champ Car Pole of the Season After Leading Final Qualifying For Sunday's Grand Prix Of Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) at first glance may resemble an accountant more than a world-class race-car driver, but the only thing the young Frenchman has been counting during this Champ Car World Series season is poles and wins.

He stacked another pole onto his ever-growing pile Saturday as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader paced final qualifying with a best lap of 1:43.046 (141.420 mph) around the 4.048-mile Road America layout in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Heavy cloud cover greeted the Champ Car drivers at Road America Saturday and the threat of rain weighed heavily on the minds of the teams and drivers, prompting most of the cars to take the first opportunity to go out and post a fast lap. That was in direct opposition to the way Friday's session went as cars trickled out in two and threes, a strategy that ended up costing some drivers a shot at the pole as red flags interrupted the session on two occasions.

The rains stayed away throughout the session, but there were a pair of red-flag stoppages that played a part in the day's results. The first one of those came at the halfway point of the session when Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) crashed in Turn 12, getting off course for the second consecutive day. The scarlet banner flew just seconds after Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) flashed across the line to post a time of 1:43.374 (140.972 mph) -- a time that vaulted him to the top of the speed sheets.

That time for the 12-year veteran would hold up for the next 10 minutes as everybody returned to action after the red flag. A number of drivers would climb into the third spot on the grid during that time including defending race winner Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and the Forsythe Championship Racing duo of Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

But all of those pilots would be eclipsed by Bourdais on his 12th trip around the massive Road America circuit, as the series leader snapped off the time that would win him the pole. He nearly lost that time on his next orbit however, as he dipped his tires off the track near Turn 12 and narrowly missed hitting the wall, a miscue that would have cost him the pole. He survived the scare and continued, but the defending series champion would not be as lucky two minutes later.

Tracy spun as he made his pitch for the top spot, looping his machine and backing it into the tire wall at Turn 14. The accident brought out the red flag with four minutes remaining in the final qualifying session, and would eventually signify the end of the session. The incident cost Tracy a fast lap of 1:43.849, but the penalty would not cost the Vancouver winner as his second-best lap was still good enough to lock down the sixth spot on the grid.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned a front-row start by leading Friday qualifying, and elected to save a set of Bridgestone Potenzas for Sunday's 52-lap race, using older tires to set the fifth-best time of the day. The front-row starting spot in the first for the Floridian since his pole at the Milwaukee Mile two months ago.

Vasser's time that he narrowly snuck past the aforementioned Dominguez red flag would hold up to give the Californian the third spot on tomorrow's grid, earning the PKV Racing pilot his best starting spot since he won the Long Beach pole in 2002. Defending race winner Junqueira will grid fourth after posting a time of 1:43.606 (140.656 mph), while Carpentier rounded out the top five with a time of 1:43.753 (140.457 mph).

Tracy ended up sixth despite the spin, putting him one spot ahead of Vancouver podium finisher A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Allmendinger will be joined in the fourth row by Dale Coyne Racing's Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Servia's eighth-place starting spot is his best of the 2004 season although he has finished as high as fourth this year on race day.

Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start in the ninth spot on Sunday while Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the best of the Reynard brigade and will start 12th, matching his best starting position of the season. Guy Smith (#17 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make his Champ Car debut in tomorrow's race, and will start 16th in the 18-car field, putting up a best time of 1:46.025 (137.447 mph).

Tomorrow's 52-lap event will get the green flag at 2 p.m. Central Time and can be seen live on HDNet, as well as on a tape-delayed basis Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Spike TV. Fans can also follow all the action via the Race Director feature on the series' official website, www.champcarworldseries.com.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "It just seems the McDonald's team is very good. We're working very hard for it. We have a strong baseline every weekend that we've been building since last year. And we're stronger and more consistent than last year. It's a team effort, and I think I've always been a good qualifier. So I'm just glad it's working out right now. Hopefully it's going to hold like that the whole season. I am not too concerned about the start of the race tomorrow. We have been fast all weekend and should have a good run tomorrow."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "It's a great thing we're on the front row here. The car was pretty good yesterday. Today we went with a bit more of conservative approach and ran on old tires in qualifying. Our last run, we ran on the new set, and we just underestimated the understeer we had in the car. I went out and it was just pushing everywhere. We knew we had it locked up for today, good front row start. Slept real good last night. The good news is we'll have fresh rubber all day tomorrow."

JIMMY VASSER (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The car is good and all the credit goes to my PKV Racing guys and engineers who worked on it. We've just been working methodically on the Gulfstream car to improve it each and every time we hit the track. Yesterday's qualifying was a bit of a setback, but tomorrow will be the best chance of the season for us to get our first win. If we run a clean race with good fuel economy, I'm sure we can run up front and contend for the win."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais won his fourth pole in eight events with today's pole win. The second-year driver is the first Champ Car pilot to win four poles in the year's first eight starts since Juan Montoya in 2000.

* Bourdais has now won nine poles in 26 career Champ Car starts, matching the effort of two-time Champ Car titlewinner Alex Zanardi. Only Nigel Mansell (21 starts) and Juan Montoya (25 starts) have earned nine poles quicker at the start of their Champ Car careers.

* Oriol Servia's eight-place starting spot is the best for a Dale Coyne car since 1998 when Gualter Salles started fourth at Long Beach.

* Rodolfo Lavin will start 10th on Sunday and has earned back-to-back top-10 starts for the first time in his young Champ Car career. Lavin started second two weeks ago in Vancouver.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Gualter Salles , Guy Smith , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Nigel Mansell , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing , HART