CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEADER PAUL TRACY PADS HIS 2005 ADVANTAGE BY CAPTURING FIRST-DAY QUALIFYING HONORS IN TORONTO TORONTO (July 8, 2005) -- It took exactly 58.887 seconds on a sunny Toronto Friday for Paul Tracy ( ...
CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEADER PAUL TRACY PADS HIS 2005 ADVANTAGE BY CAPTURING FIRST-DAY QUALIFYING HONORS IN TORONTO
TORONTO (July 8, 2005) -- It took exactly 58.887 seconds on a sunny Toronto Friday for Paul Tracy (#3 Mountain Grand Lodge/Avalanche Bay Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to double his lead in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford point standings.
Tracy made a complete lap of the 1.755-mile street course that hosts this weekend's Molson Indy Toronto in those 58.887 seconds, allowing him to lead the 18-car field in Friday's first-round qualifying for the 20th running of the Toronto event.
The Canadian star is guaranteed a front-row starting spot for a race-record fourth consecutive season after leading today's session, and earns a championship point for the effort, upping his season total to 129 and widening his points lead to two over defending Molson Indy Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Bourdais is still in striking distance of the 2003 series champion after qualifying in the second spot today, followed by Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The session started slowly as a handful of the rookies greeted the green flag that kicked off the 35-minute session. Action picked up in a hurry soon after however as A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started a flurry of action between himself and Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as they swapped the pole three times in four minutes.
That battle was forgotten soon after as the two protagonists in the Champ Car points chase took to the track. Tracy vaulted to the top of the charts on his sixth lap, then carded the lap that would eventually win him the pole just two trips later. Bourdais ran right with him, stopping the clocks with what would eventually be his best lap on his seventh orbit.
The duo dove down Pit Lane for fuel and new tires, opening up the track for the rest of the field to make their moves as the session passed the halfway point. Portland winner Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the first shot, slipping into the top-five first before moving into the fourth position with a best lap of 59.372 seconds (106.414 mph).
Da Matta's attack was enough to spark Tagliani onto even quicker times as he dropped a lap of 59.248 seconds (106.637 mph) on the field, solidifying his third-place position ahead of the charging da Matta and Dominguez. Da Matta's PKV Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made his move as well during his second stint, bumping himself into the hunt for the top five as he broke the 60-second barrier.
The rest for Tracy and Bourdais didn't last long however as both drivers came ripping off of Pit Lane with nine minutes on the clock and seven laps at their disposal. Tracy spent most of his final laps looking for room to protect his lead while Bourdais chased in vain, settling for a best time of 59.010 seconds (107.067 mph) that would give him the second spot on the provisional grid.
Tagliani made a late charge as well, earning his best time on his penultimate lap to lock up the third spot. Vasser and Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also posted their best laps in the waning moments of the session to slot themselves into the sixth and seventh spots on the grid respectively. They ended up missing a seat in the top five when Dominguez claimed the fifth spot with a time of 59.380 seconds (106.399 mph). Wilson's teammate and early-session polesitter Allmendinger ended up eighth, while Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his best qualifying result of the 2005 campaign after coming in 11th in the Friday activities while local favorite Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up 12th.
Alex Sperafico (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualified 13th after taking over the HVM machine for Ronnie Bremer, while his cousin Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day just .001 seconds behind in 14th. Ryan Dalziel (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) qualified 16th in his first-ever Champ Car qualifying session as the former Toyota Atlantic star took over the Dale Coyne Racing ride this weekend for his debut.
The final grid for Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto will be set with tomorrow's final qualifying session, which begins at 1:45 p.m.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS
"To be guaranteed a front row spot allows us to be a little bit more conservative with tire choice, work a little bit more on race setup because we know the car is good. I think the grip level, we need to find more grip level in the car for race setup than what we have right now. The car is good for qualifying, but probably not as good as we need it to be in the race yet. We'll work at that tomorrow and then, you know, if we find that grip, hopefully that will make it faster in qualifying trim."
"Well, it's always an interesting qualifying session here. I guess a lot of people are getting frustrated by traffic and things like that. It's also pretty difficult to put a lap together. But we knew we had a good car. It was very similar to the baseline from last year. You know, I guess the other makes sense. PT was on pole Friday and we were on second. If we can repeat maybe we can be on pole tomorrow."
"Our first set of tires was pretty good. We did an okay time. I did a little mistake in the hairpin. I went wide. I was surprised to do that lap with that mistake. Then on the second set of tires, we went very similar time, but I was not able to go as quick. I was trying really hard. When I saw Paul trying hard, locking tires, I said, "He must have the same problem I have." We felt pretty good. Finished the session P3. So it's pretty good for our team."
Paul Tracy qualified in the front row for the Molson Indy Toronto for the fourth consecutive season, setting a new event record. Emerson Fittipaldi and Dario Franchitti each started in the front row in three straight Toronto events. Of those, Franchitti is the only driver in the 20-year history of the event to win back-to-back poles.