CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Saturday report

Bruno Junqueira takes first pole of the season to lead Newman/Haas 1-2 qualifying sweep for Sunday's CART Champ Car World Series event at Road America. ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 2, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Bruno Junqueira takes first pole of the season to lead Newman/Haas 1-2 qualifying sweep for Sunday's CART Champ Car World Series event at Road America.

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (August 2, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira (#1 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has been pointing at this weekend's Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton for the last two months as a place where he could make his biggest move in his season-long chase of the series points lead.

Junqueira had tasted success on each of his two previous stops at the 4.048-mile Road America layout, claiming his first Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford victory at the Elkhart Lake track in 2001, then finishing third after winning the pole here last season. Saturday, he showed why he thinks so highly of the Wisconsin track as he bested the 19-car field by nearly a half-second in claiming the pole for Sunday's event.

The third-year driver hung a lap of 1:43.703 (140.524 mph) to win his first pole of the 2003 season and the sixth of his career, putting up a time that was .461 seconds quicker than anyone else in the field in securing the top spot. Junqueira is the first driver since Michael Andretti in 1998 and '99 to win back-to-back poles at Road America. The pole, when combined with his first-round qualifying lead, gave Junqueira a pair of championship points leading into tomorrow's race and boosted his total to 143 for the year, leaving him just 18 points out of the championship lead.

Junqueira paced the second Newman/Haas Racing 1-2 qualifying sweep of the season as rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill the outside of the front row after getting around the Road America layout in 1:44.242 (139.798 mph). Bourdais will start in the front row for the sixth time in the year's 12 races and will complete a Newman/Haas front row for the first time since the Round 5 German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, a race that was won by Bourdais.

For the second consecutive day, Junqueira decided that discretion was the better part of valor as far as the 10-minute pre-qualifying warmup session went. The Brazilian skipped the session yesterday and today because he did not feel that he would get much benefit from leaving Pit Lane prior to qualifying. For the second straight day he turned out to be a sage as he would lead the session by a substantial margin.

"It feels really good," Junqueira said of his pole win. "I've been on the pole Friday a lot of times, missing the pole by hundredths or thousandths of a second, a lot of times in the front row, a lot of times I've been second. It feels really good. I hope this track can bring me luck again and I can get my first win with the PacifiCare Newman/Haas Racing Team and my first win this year."

Unlike yesterday however, the qualifying session was far from smooth as a pair of red-flag periods meant that the entire field was forced to run their final stint in the last 10 minutes of the day. On a day when laps were taking nearly two minutes apiece to complete, it meant that most teams would be unable to use their entire allotment of 15 qualifying laps, forcing them to get the most out of the limited time they had.

And while the track was a bit faster than it was yesterday owing to slightly cooler temperatures, it did not yield the drama of Friday's qualifying when the third spot on the grid changed hands five times in the last two minutes. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) did make a late move, vaulting into the third spot on the grid with a lap of 1:44.306 (139.712 mph) in an orbit that finished well after starter J.D. Wilbur had first flown the checkered flag. The lap put the Laguna Seca winner into the top three on the starting grid for the third time in the last six races and gave him his best-ever Road America starting spot.

Carpentier's run dropped Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the fourth spot in the serial, as the Spaniard would equal his season-best qualifying performance with a lap of 1:44.314 (139.701 mph). Another last-lap burst propelled Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to his best-ever qualifying result as the Mexican sophomore used a lap of 1:44.378 (139.616 mph) to vault past series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) into the fifth spot on the grid. Tracy would have to content himself with a sixth-place run Saturday, marking the first time since Germany and only the second time during the 2003 season that Tracy has failed to qualify in the top three.

The Reynards of American Spirit Team Johansson were next on the grid in the best combined qualifying performance of the year for the first-year squad. Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) finished seventh on the day while rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would score the eighth spot on the grid.

A pair of 2003 race winners were next in the order as Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top 10. Jourdain will start out side of the third row for just the third time this year, but did earn his best Road America starting spot in the process.

TOP THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES:

Patrick Carpentier: "I'm pretty happy this weekend. A few things changed. For me it's first time that we've run fast here at Elkhart Lake. It's a good thing. It's good for the team. The last two weekends for us have been extremely tough. A lot of battles inside the team. This weekend is a good thing."

Sebastien Bourdais: "We will need to be on the pace for the race. Obviously, I don't know exactly what's going to happen about the weather forecast, but I just expect (the track) is going to be consistent, because it's a lot of strategy, and it's always frustrating if you're not on the right one."

Bruno Junqueira: "I hope doesn't rain tomorrow because when rains here, it rains really heavy. I hope doesn't rain on the race. That's something that can happen. Unfortunately, it happened 2001. But I hope it doesn't rain. Because when it rains, separation gets really, really difficult here."

NOTEWORTHY:

* The seventh- and eighth-place qualifying runs for Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay of American Spirit Team Johansson were the best combined results of the season for the rookie squad. Portland had been the previous best for the team when Hunter-Reay qualified seventh with Vasser running ninth.

* Newman/Haas Racing completed its second 1-2 qualifying sweep of the season but the team had not had a 1-2 qualifying sweep prior to that dating back to 1995 when Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy started on the front row at Long Beach.

* Darren Manning and Rodolfo Lavin of Walker Racing were the only two cars not to improve their qualifying times during today's final round. Manning, who had been among the top five in morning practice, spun into the gravel in Turn Six during his session and will start 14th while Lavin will start 17th.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Michel Jourdain
Teams HART