Sebastien Bourdais Throws First Punch in Champ Car Title Fight By Leading First Round of Qualifying at Surfers Paradise SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 22, 2004) - Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points ...
Sebastien Bourdais Throws First Punch in Champ Car Title Fight By Leading First Round of Qualifying at Surfers Paradise
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 22, 2004) - Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has his first Champ Car title within sight, and he is taking every opportunity to reach out and grab it.
Bourdais widened his gap over Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to 28 points by leading the first round of qualifying at Surfers Paradise, Australia, getting around the 2.795-mile street course in a best time of 1:34.439 (106.545 mph/171.467 kph).
The clouds finally cleared on Friday after three days of wet conditions on Australia's Gold Coast and a sun-drenched crowd of 62,943 came out to witness practice and qualifying for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 as a Champ Car season-high 19 drivers attacked the Queensland street course.
Bourdais posted his best time on the fifth of his 15 allotted qualifying laps, effectively putting paid to a game of leapfrog that had seen the first-day pole change hands six times before the Flying Frenchman carded his best time. The Friday-leading effort guarantees Bourdais a front-row starting spot for Sunday's 57-lap race and earned him another championship point, boosting his total to 308 and widening his lead to 28. He must score seven points more than teammate Junqueira over the remainder of the weekend in order to clinch the 2004 series championship.
Junqueira suffered a setback in his pursuit of Bourdais and was unable to mount a serious threat after a gear position sensor left him unable to get out on track at the drop of the green flag. Junqueira, who was fourth in the pre-practice warmup session, sat for 26 of the session's 35 minutes while his team feverishly worked to correct the problem. The team did get Junqueira on track for one final crack at carding a competitive time, but that chance ended in a spray of carbon fiber when Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) hit the in Turn Seven - ending the session three minutes early and blunting any last-minute charges.
Former Gold Coast winner Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the second spot in today's qualifying after posting a top time of 1:34.557 (106.412 mph/171.253 kph). Tracy, who led the morning practice session, put up his best lap on his first stint off Pit Lane and was another of the drivers that had any late-session hopes dashed with the Carpentier accident. If Tracy's position holds up through tomorrow's final qualifying, he will extend a streak that has seen him qualify in the top four in each of the last eight Champ Car races in Surfers Paradise.
Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) snared the third spot with a best time of 1:34.601 (106.363 mph/171.173 kph) as the Mexican looks to move into the top five in the season standings. Dominguez enters the weekend just three points away from his first top-five season and returns to a track where he claimed his first Champ Car win. Dominguez was one of the drivers that were able to post their best time later in the session, vaulting to third ahead of Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
Servia was strong in each of the Friday sessions, and was fourth in the first round of qualifying with a best time of 1:34.715 (106.234 mph/170.967 kph). If the newly-shorn Spaniard can repeat his Friday performance when the final grid is set tomorrow, he will earn his best starting spot of the 2004 campaign.
Veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five of the day with a best clocking of 1:34.913 (106.013 mph/170.611 kph). Another former Surfers Paradise winner, Vasser set his fastest time at the end of his first stint despite reports that his front wing was rubbing slightly on a front wheel. Vasser held the pole at two different times during the session before settling for the fifth spot.
A number of the younger drivers went out at the drop of the green flag, taking the opportunity to turn laps on a clear race track. The newcomer that garnered most of the attention from the rabid Aussie fans acquitted himself well in his first session as David Besnard (#15 WPS Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) ended his day in the 13th spot. After a practice session that saw him lower his time on nearly every lap, Besnard was atop the time charts early in the session and ended up with a time of 1:37.497 (103.203 mph/166.089 kph).
Defending Surfers winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the sixth-best time of the day with a run of 1:35.224 (105.667 mph/170.054 kph). His time was a scant .009 seconds better than that of seventh-placed Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), whose RuSPORT machine clocked in at 1:35.233 (105.657 mph/170.037kph).
The two rookies left in the battle for the 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year award are eighth and 10th in the queue after the first round of qualifying with rookie leader A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) nipping Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the eighth spot with a time of 1:35.254 (105.633mph/170.000 kph). Allmendinger leads the rookie chase by 34 points over Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was 10th with a best lap of 1:35.947 (104.870 mph/168.772 kph).
The final grid will be set with Saturday's qualifying session, which starts at 1:45 p.m. local time. Sunday's 57-lap event gets the green flag at 2:45 local time and can be seen stateside on Spike TV at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am really proud of the guys. I am happy with this season and how the McDonald's car and crew has been working so well together. It is good to be guaranteed a front row start since this is always an unpredictable race, especially at the start. I agree with the rest of the drivers that it was frustrating that the session was cut short. We were just lucky to be sitting where we were and we will see what we can do to improve the car even more for tomorrow."
PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The Indeck car feels good, we just did not have the luck today. During my first run this afternoon I was just building up and making some progress. Then when we went out for the second run, I got caught up behind one of the Dale Coyne Racing cars. They tried to get out of the way, but it was too late, I had already lost valuable time. That was a bit frustrating. We made some small changes after that and went back out, then the red came out. We need better luck for tomorrow and hope things can fall into place then."
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am not very happy with the Herdez car. It is not running the way that I want it to be running. We have to make changes tonight to make it better for tomorrow's final qualifying session. But it is good to be here, third-quickest because it is a good sign that the car can only get faster and better for tomorrow."
* The day's attendance at Surfers Paradise was 62,943, a figure that was up over 2,000 over last year. The two-day attendance for the event is 116,521.
* Sebastien Bourdais extended his own Champ Car record by guaranteeing himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race. The front-row spot means that Bourdais will start in the top three for the Champ Car-record 14th consecutive race.
* Jaroslav 'Jarek' Janis ran 17th in his first-ever Champ Car qualifying session. The 21-year-old Czech posted a best time of 1:38.534 in his Dale Coyne Racing machine.
* Patrick Carpentier ended up 16th in the first-round results after his late-session accident with a best time of 1:40.778. He lost a time of 1:38.110 after being penalized for bringing out the red flag, a time that would have moved him up to 15th for the day.