CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Newman/Haas Racing Friday qualifying report

Bourdais and Junqueira 1-2 in Champ Car season-opener in St. Pete. OVERALL: After both drivers spent the first of two 50-minute morning sessions getting acclimated to the new track while on rain tires, Bourdais ran the fastest lap time of the ...

Bourdais and Junqueira 1-2 in Champ Car season-opener in St. Pete.

OVERALL: After both drivers spent the first of two 50-minute morning sessions getting acclimated to the new track while on rain tires, Bourdais ran the fastest lap time of the second AM session while Junqueira ran the fourth fastest time. With a likely chance of rain for Saturday's qualifying session, provisional qualifying became even more important. Bourdais set the fastest time in his first of two runs during the 35-minute session while Junqueira was second. During the final 10 minutes of the session, two separate red flag periods halted the session. The final green period was approx. 1.5 minutes in length and no one was able to better their time.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, #2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/ Bridgestone: "To be on the first row in my first event in Champ cars is as good as it can get today. If the weather forecast is concrete, today's time will be the pole time. The team did a great job. I hope it will be like this the whole weekend. I was a frustrating qualifying session with all of the red flags. We knew we had a good car so our strategy was to go out early in the session in case there were many red flags and it looks to have worked out well for us. We're on pole and that what our goal was. I think I was not expecting such a good result. The Lilly car was perfect. We came here with a baseline set-up and we didn't change it a lot. The balance was immediately good. Once again my experience in F3000 where we had no practice time enabled me to push hard straightaway. I think Cristiano proved the car was good last year. It is also a confidence thing to be able to run so well straightaway. For sure to be compared to (Nigel) Mansell is really nice definitely."

NOTES: The only other rookie to drive for NHR was Nigel Mansell, who earned the pole position in Australia in his debut with the team in 1993. Mansell went on to not only win Rookie of the Year honors but also the third championship for the team.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA, #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "It was a frustrating session with all of the reds. Qualifying wasn't too good for me. I'm not sure if I could have been faster than Sebastien but the PacifiCare car had more in it and I could have gotten closer to him. It's frustrating not to be able to find out. On my fastest lap on my first run, I had traffic in one of the turns. Second place is not too bad. The PacifiCare car was good today but Sebastien was a little bit better. This morning I was fourth quickest and the car was not that good. The Newman/Haas team made some changes to the car and it was much better in qualifying. I like this track a lot. CART and St. Petersburg did a good job with the track. They don't need to make many changes for next year. The track is already pretty good."

TEAM NOTES...In their 20 previous seasons, the team has won 9 season-opening races ('84, '85, '87 - Mario Andretti in Long Beach; '88 - Mario Andretti in Phoenix; '93 Mansell in Australia; '97, '98 - Michael Andretti in Homestead, Fla.; '01, '02 - da Matta in Monterrey, Mexico.)...NHR is the most successful team competing in the 2003 Champ Car World Series after scoring 68 victories and 70 pole positions. NHR won their 68th Champ car event in Miami (da Matta on 10-6-02). Da Matta brought the team its 70th pole three races ago in Australia (10-26-02). Prior to da Matta's seven poles in the past 15 events, it had been a 56-race non-pole drought (1999 Elkhart Lake with Michael Andretti)...NHR has won FOUR CART Championships ('84-Mario Andretti, '91-Michael Andretti, '93-Nigel Mansell, '02-DA MATTA)...The team has won 45 of their 68 victories on road/street courses and 23 on ovals. The most recent road/street course victory was the Grand Prix Americas in Miami won by Cristiano da Matta on 10-6-02. Of NHR's 70 pole positions, 55 have come on road/street courses. The team's most recent road/street course pole was earned by da Matta in Australia (street 10-26-02)...The team has earned 166 top-three finishes (1st - 68, 2nd - 52, 3rd - 46).

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning practice session will take place from 10:00-11:15 AM ET which will be followed by final qualifying from 1:45-2:45 PM ET. SPEED Channel will televise qualifying live.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Nigel Mansell , Mario Andretti , Cristiano da Matta