CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Lola Saturday qualifying report

Sebastien Bourdais sweeps pole position. Earns fastest lap in Friday, Saturday sessions. 2002 FIA Formula 3000 champion Sebastien Bourdais secured pole position for Sunday's season opener in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series ...

Sebastien Bourdais sweeps pole position.
Earns fastest lap in Friday, Saturday sessions.

2002 FIA Formula 3000 champion Sebastien Bourdais secured pole position for Sunday's season opener in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, pacing 18 challengers at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg through the Florida city streets. Driving Newman/Haas Racing's #2 Lola/Ford-Cosworth, the 23-year-old French rookie sped around the 1.806- mile track in 60.928 seconds (106.710mph), bettering his Friday quickest lap by .748 seconds. Starting second for the 105-lap Sunday afternoon contest, Paul Tracy toured at 61.476 seconds (105.758mph) in the #3 Team Players Lola/Ford, his first start with the team. Adrian Fernandez, returning to Champ Car competition after fracturing two vertebrae in Australia last October placed third in the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Lola/Ford at 61.749 seconds (105.291mph).

Bourdais appeared nonplussed at his achievement in securing pole position, the first driver to earn CART's top starting spot in his debut since Nigel Mansell in 1993, also driving for Newman/Haas. "The car has been great all weekend and we've had no problems from the start. This is great," he said. "My car has been consistent during runs on old or new tires. It hasn't been affected by the weather or wind" on this cloudy, windy and cooler (79 degrees) afternoon.

Veteran Tracy, in his 13th Champ Car season acknowledged the five red flags during this 40-minute qualifying session scotched his efforts to improve. "Every time we were on a good lap, the red came out. It usually takes me 2-3 laps buildup for me to turn my best," the Canadian admitted. Tenth in Friday qualifying, the 19-race winner "started with Pat's setup [teammate Carpentier], made some changes and the car got better." Despite being unable to train in a kart or to drive his racer until January 25th of this year, Fernandez notes, "It's nice to be back in the car. I've been making progress the last two weeks hoping to find my rhythm, make no mistakes. The speed is coming back and we're starting to get consistency."

The top five qualifiers all rode with Lola, as Carpentier won 4th starting slot in his #32 Players Lola/Ford and Michel Jourdain Jr. brought the #9 Gigante Lola/Ford to fifth on the 19-car grid. Eight of the top ten drivers are Lola-equipped.

Sunday's inaugural Champ Car race of the 19-event season takes the green flags at 1pm EST. SPEED Channel will air the contest live.

-lola cars-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain