CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Saturday qualifying report

Sebastien Bourdais claims season's fifth pole in Surfers Paradise, Paul Tracy needs podium finish in Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 to score Cart Champ Car title SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 25, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Sebastien Bourdais claims season's fifth pole in Surfers Paradise, Paul Tracy needs podium finish in Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 to score Cart Champ Car title

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 25, 2003) -- Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stood toe-to-toe and threw quick laps at each other on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Surfers Paradise, Australia as they fought bitterly for the pole for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 -- and more importantly the championship point that went with it.

In the end, the two title contenders would be separated by a scant .006 seconds but would see the vital pole point vanish in the hands of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Rookie of the Year Sebastien Bourdais. He stole the point from his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Junqueira with a late flurry that featured a polewinning lap of 1:31.718 (109.706 mph/176.554 kph). The lap around the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street circuit earned Bourdais his fifth pole of the season, but his first since a win from the top spot under the lights in Cleveland on the Fourth of July weekend.

In front of a massive Saturday crowd of 83,913, Bourdais became the 10th different driver to win a Surfers Paradise pole and extended his own CART rookie record by starting in the top six for his 12th consecutive race. He has converted his last two poles (EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Cleveland) into victories and would become just the fourth rookie in series history to win as many as four races if he can score a victory in Sunday's 65-lap race.

The session started quickly as a quintet of cars rolled off Pit Lane at the drop of the flag despite the fact that all traces of last night's torrential rains had long since disappeared. Those that went early showed that it would take a quick pace to maintain yesterday's spots as teams put up times that were nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than Friday's efforts within five laps. Tracy went to pole on only his third lap, then lowered his effort again on Lap 5, moving up while Junqueira waited to make his move. Junqueira would spend the entire first half of the session on Pit Lane, but took only three laps to move to the top of the time charts when he snapped off a lap of 1:31.994 (109.377 mph/176.024 kph).

Bourdais would climb ahead of Junqueira soon after while Tracy took his final shots. Junqueira struggled to find a clear lap and would not threaten to claim the point he so desperately needed, while Tracy would end up with a final lap of 1:32.000 (109.370 mph/176.013 kph) to snare the third spot. With the championship point for the pole going to Bourdais, it means that Tracy needs to finish third or better on Sunday no matter where second-place starter Junqueira places, in order to win his first CART Champ Car title.

Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed that his Friday speed was no fluke as brought his Rocketsports Racing machine home in the fourth spot. Tagliani, who has a Surfers podium finish to his credit, ran second in first-round qualifying but had his time disallowed after failing the post-race technical inspection. Saturday he went out and put up an even faster time, negotiating the tricky course in 1:32.135 (109.209 mph/175.755 kph).

Former Surfers winner Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start fifth in Sunday's race after carding a time of 1:32.436 (108.854 mph/175.183 kph). He starts in the third row alongside Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) after the Spaniard would end up with a best lap of 1:32.731 (108.507 mph/174.625 kph). Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed up his strong Friday run with another good effort on Saturday, starting seventh for his second race in a row after posting a time of 1:32.732 (108.506 mph/174.623). He starts seventh after qualifying a microscopic .001 seconds slower than Servia.

Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and rookie Mika Salo (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 for Sunday's race. Jourdain would see his title hopes vanish with the ninth-place qualifying effort, although he can still become the first Mexican-born driver to win three CART Champ Car races in a season with a victory Sunday or next week in California. Salo, who comes off of a pair of top-five finishes, set a new career-high by qualifying 10th. A veteran of 110 Formula 1 starts, Salo has improved his qualifying result from the previous race in each of the four events that he has run this year.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was the fastest of the Reynard contingent with a best lap of 1:33.542 (107.567 mph/173.111 kph) that left him 12th on the grid. The 12th-place starting spot matches his best street-course qualifying result of the season.

The 18th race of the 2003 Champ Car World Series season gets the green flag Sunday afternoon at 2:35 p.m. local time. The race can be seen live in the United States on SPEED Channel and FOX Sports Espanol, beginning at 12:30 a.m. Fans can also follow the action on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone):

"It was frustrating yesterday but P3 overall wasn't that bad I guess. The car was good today, but it did take quite a while to build up the speed we needed. With one lap left in my stint I brushed the wall and still managed to pull out the 1:33.7. The Newman/Haas Racing crew did a great job today but we still have a long ways to go to get to the podium tomorrow. There's no one area of this course you have to get right to go fast, it's basically every chicane around the course. This track is tough and that's just the way it is."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone):

"This morning the car was pretty good overall. I felt we were faster than everyone else today, but in my first run [Patrick] Carpentier spun in front of me, and in the second run a piece of paper flew on the track and caused me to lose two or three tenths. Unfortunately, on the second set of tires [Rodolfo] Lavin slowed me down and I had cars behind me so it was really frustrating because I couldn't break free. To be fast again and lose the pole here for the second straight year is very frustrating. It will be fast tomorrow on track because of the weather, so I'm looking forward to a good race."

PAUL TRACY (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone):

"We made a big improvement today. I had a talk with Bruno before qualifying in the restroom and he told me I needed to stay off the curbs in the chicanes to get a good lap time. What he didn't know is that I pissed on his shoes to give him bad luck. I like the track and have enjoyed it every time since I started coming here. I went 12 mph faster today through the last chicane than I did yesterday so that's where we found our speed this afternoon."

NOTEWORTHY

Jimmy Vasser was the only driver not to improve his qualifying time from his Friday effort as the veteran would run only three laps before being felled by an electrical problem. Vasser, who won the Australia race en route to his 1996 CART title, will start 15th on Sunday.

Paul Tracy needs a podium finish tomorrow to claim his first career Champ Car crown. However, despite the fact that he has started in the top five in each of his last eight Australia visits, he has only placed on the podium in one of those starts as he placed third in last year's rain-shortened event.

Adrian Fernandez will start in the top five for the third time in the last four races, and has been getting the job done on Race Day, earning points-paying finishes in each of his last 12 races including a win at Portland.

Today's attendance of 83,913 was up 2,865 from Saturday a season ago. Each of the first three days of this year's event as seen an increase in attendance from 2002. The total attendance for Thursday through Saturday numbers 198,074.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais