CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Friday qualifying report

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEADER SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS SWIPES FIRST-DAY POLE AT SURFERS PARADISE WITH LAST-LAP BURST SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 21, 2005) -- It has long been said that having a prime location is the key to success...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEADER SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS SWIPES FIRST-DAY POLE AT SURFERS PARADISE WITH LAST-LAP BURST

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 21, 2005) -- It has long been said that having a prime location is the key to success in real estate, but Friday at Surfers Paradise, Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) found that location just might have provided the key to the 2005 Vanderbilt Cup.

After a red flag reduced Friday's first-round qualifying to a two-lap shootout, Bourdais found that his spot on Pit Lane gave him clear track for the final lap, allowing him to leapfrog to the top of the charts in Friday qualifying for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300. Bourdais snapped off a lap of 1:45.739 (95.159 mph) to wrest the first-day lead from local favorite Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) putting himself in position to secure the 2005 series championship if he can lead Saturday's final qualifying round.

The qualifying round was trademark Surfers Paradise as the Champ Cars started their session in front of a Friday-record crowd of 64,111, on a track made slick by strong rain that inundated the course just an hour before qualifying. The rains finally halted just before the session started, setting up an exciting round of qualifying that saw times improve as the track continued to dry throughout the 35-minute session.

Bourdais was the first to lead the way, vaulting to the top of the 19-car field on just his third trip around the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street course. He was immediately displaced by former champion Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who started a run that saw six lead changes in 15 minutes, including a strong lap from 2002 Australia winner Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) that temporarily launched him from 17th to first.

Tracy retook the lead with eight minutes to go by posting a time of 1:46.920 (94.108 mph) and appeared to have things well in hand as Bourdais ducked down Pit Lane after moving into the third spot behind Tracy and Tagliani. Things came to a halt soon after however as Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun and stalled in the first-turn chicane, bringing out a red flag.

The scarlet banner sent everyone down Pit Lane as the session time dwindled, but the Champ Car Safety Team was able to clear the stricken car in time to give the entire field of drivers a final shot at setting their best time. Nearly every one of the 19 cars leapt out of their pit boxes as the green flag waved to restart the session, jockeying for clear track as they prepped for their final flying lap.

Bourdais' stall at the end of Pit Lane made him the first car back on track, allowing him to attack the course without worrying about possible traffic congestion while the rest of the field stacked up like cordwood behind him. The defending series champion used the clear track to his advantage, shaving more than 1.5 seconds off of his previous best time on his final lap to take the first-day pole, but there were others behind him that found room of their own to make a move.

Tagliani gave the home crowd a reason to cheer, finding more than a full second on his last lap and moving into the second spot on the speed sheets with a time of 1:46.010 (94.916 mph). The second-place finish was the best of the season for the first-year Team Australia squad, coming on a weekend when the green-and-gold clad team expanded to three cars with the addition of rookie Will Power (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The effort dropped Tracy to third while the surprise of the day came from the Mi-Jack/Conquest pits in the form of 19-year-old Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Philippe hung a time of 1:47.321 (93.756 mph) on the last of his seven laps to vault into fourth place on the result sheets -- the best qualifying session result of his two-year series career.

Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gambled on a drying track in order to keep his flagging championship hopes alive, but saw the plan go for naught when the red flag flew. Servia, who is the only driver left in the field that has a mathematical chance of catching Bourdais in the championship, waited on Pit Lane for the entire first half of the qualifying session before making his first trip around the course.

The plan was designed to save his tires while the rest of the field dried the track out, allowing the Spaniard to get the most use out of his Bridgestone Potenzas in pursuit of a much-needed championship point. The intended result failed to materialize however as the late red flag cost him valuable track time, allowing him to run just seven laps on the day. He did use the last of those trips to claim the fifth spot, posting a time of 1:47.872 (93.277 mph).

2001 Oz winner Cristiano da Matta (#21 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the sixth spot while Dale Coyne Racing's Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came through with his best qualifying effort of the season, stopping the clocks at 1:48.355 (92.861 mph) to take the seventh position on the first-day ledger.

Michael McDowell (#31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualified 13th in his debut Champ Car session while Power ended his first Champ Car qualifying session in the 17th spot. The final starting grid will be set on Saturday with final-round qualifying set for 1:45 p.m.

QUOTES FROM TOP-THREE QUALIFIERS

Paul Tracy: We went early and did a fairly long run, and, you know, second run was good. We were quickest on the second run. You know, really did my time, and then it went red. I thought everything would be great if it was a fairly lengthy red, but it was quick. When it went green again, our tires were done. Sebastien and Alex had fresh tires and the track was a little bit better. It was drying all the time. A little bit unfortunate. But overall we're happy.

Alex Tagliani: It's very good for the team. Everybody is very happy. They've been working really hard to put this third car together. Everybody thought that they were going to have a little vacation, and big surprise, they have to work harder to put a third car. I think a result like this keeps everybody happy and motivated to continue to work hard for the weekend. Car was really good. Hopefully we can repeat it tomorrow no matter what the weather does.

Sebastien Bourdais: Well, yeah, a pretty tense session, as everybody said. I'm not going to repeat what both Paul and Alex said. It's just, you know, tough conditions. You have to be at the right time with the right tires. You know, we just got lucky. I think being at pit out played a big factor for us. I'm very happy for the team Newman/Haas and McDonalds to give me such a great car because it was definitely not easy. We gave it all. We said we were going to be attacking very hard this weekend, and I think it outlines very well what our mindset is.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Michael McDowell , Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe , Timo Glock , Will Power , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing