Team Australia's Will Power ( ...
Team Australia's Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) lived up to his name once again on Saturday during the final round of qualifying for the Lexmark Indy 300. The Toowoomba-native not only grabbed his fourth pole position of the season, and second in a row in Australia, he also set a track record with a 'powerful' lap of 1 minute and 30.054 seconds (111.733 mph) sending the green and gold clad Australian fans into a frenzy.
It didn't take long for Power to jump to the top of the timing sheets. On only his fourth lap he had already stolen the pole position away from Oriol Servia (#22 Pay By Touch / PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who had guaranteed himself a front row starting position on Friday. The sophomore driver didn't want to leave anything out on the table and from that point on he kept putting in blistering laps, improving each time he would cross the timing line. Power's ninth lap would have been good enough to put him on pole but it was on his tenth lap that he shattered the previous track record of 1 minute 30.204 seconds that was recorded by Cristiano da Matta back in 2002.
Despite scoring his second pole here in Australia and fifth of his career, the Australian didn't want to get too excited ahead of tomorrow's race. Power knows how important the race is after falling out last year due to an on-track incident with Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).
Power's closest competitor today was Canada's Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who has returned to the top of the charts with his Forsythe Championship Racing Team after struggling in the last few races. Tracy's lap of 1 minute 30.426 seconds may have been quicker than Servia's provisional pole time registered on Friday but the Forsythe veteran was still over a half second behind the Team Australia driver.
Tracy will be lined up on the second row with Bourdais, who came back from his mishap in qualifying yesterday to move up to fourth on the final grid. Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) was quick once again in qualifying but got nipped at the end by Bourdais and Tracy and was relegated to fifth on the grid.
Fittingly, the top-rookie of the day was Power's teammate at Team Australia, Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). He was followed by Dale Coyne Racing's Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who continues to put his DP01 at the front end of the field. Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull /Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) fell three positions from yesterday and will start Sunday's race in eighth position while rookie phenom Graham Rahal (#2 Medi|Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) moved up four positions into ninth. Minardi Team USA's 'Speedy' Dan Clarke (#4 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rounded out the top-ten.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
Will Power: "Great job by the team today, but I'm not getting too excited because it's a long race. I think the key to tomorrow is to get a good start. We have a really good race car which we practiced during our first session this morning. We practiced with full loads and everything, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Just have a good strategy and get it done. The last ten minutes were probably the hardest four laps I've ever done in my life. I pushed super hard because I knew we had the car to do it, just had to get the lap together. I was even on a quicker one in the last lap, but Dominguez blocked me. Qualifying is a very small part of the weekend. We've got to get the race right this time and win it."
Oriol Servia "In the morning the car was great, even better than yesterday. The lap time came very easy. In qualifying, in my first run, I had some engine trouble. I had to change the ECU for the second run, and still was not running very well, but good enough. I had actually a good lap at the end and I just made a mistake in turn five that cost me the lap. I think Will had a tremendous lap going, and it was going to be tough to beat. We'll see. I mean, I'm very happy with the car. As I said, starting front row, it's great. It's just great to be out there and just go for the win."
Paul Tracy: "I've been here nearly every year of this race except two. Really, this is probably the biggest event of any motor racing event in terms of the show and the crowd support. And the atmosphere is probably better than any event that I've ever attended in my life. Maybe some people have seen something different than me. But, you know, they bring new race promotors and venues. They bring them to this event. This is the model that Champ Car wants to achieve. This race is just really unique to itself. I think everybody wants to have an event like this, but you just can't replicate it."