CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Friday report

Bruno Junqueira uses late-session run to snare first-day Cart Champ Car pole position For Molson Indy Toronto TORONTO (July 11, 2003) - Friday's first round of qualifying for the Molson Indy Toronto started under huge tufts of dark clouds, ...

Bruno Junqueira uses late-session run to snare first-day Cart Champ Car pole position For Molson Indy Toronto

TORONTO (July 11, 2003) - Friday's first round of qualifying for the Molson Indy Toronto started under huge tufts of dark clouds, providing a skyward layer that threatened to douse the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street circuit at any moment along with the 43,628 fans that came out to watch the opening day of the event.

Looking up at the clouds that had already soaked the circuit most of the day on Thursday and again Friday afternoon, the Newman/Haas Racing team decided that it had better send at least one of their chargers on track as soon as possible. It was that decision that put Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) out ahead of everyone on Friday, but also left him sitting on Pit Lane for nearly 25 minutes as the rains never showed up.

Junqueira watched as series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went out and took the top spot on the scoring pylon, and continued to sit while the majority of the drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford would drain their 15-lap reservoir of qualifying time.

The strategy left Junqueira with only a few minutes to knock Tracy off the top spot, but did give him the opportunity to run laps unencumbered by lapped traffic - a problem that the Brazilian had run into on a number of occasions during the first half of the season. He put the opportunity to good use right away, joining Tracy as the only driver to run a sub 60-second lap on his 12th orbit, and then posted the quickest lap of the day on his next trip, carding a time of 59.486 seconds (106.210 mph) to lead first-day qualifying. The position guarantees Junqueira a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race regardless of what happens in Saturday's final round of qualifying.

"The most important thing to me is the starting spot, because things will change a lot tomorrow," said Junqueira, who moved to within seven points of the series lead by pacing qualifying. "We went out early because we thought it might rain, and when it didn't, we decided to wait. But we didn't have traffic and I was able to run fast."

Junqueira's lap eclipsed the 59.803-second effort put up by Tracy and gave him the pole, leaving Tracy to end the day in the second spot. Tracy had a lap of 59.667 seconds but had it erased as per CART Champ Car rule, as he spun on his first stint and brought out a red flag, costing him his fastest time. Tracy, who has a 1993 Molson Indy Toronto win on his resume, would take second ahead of the fast-closing duo of Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

"I had a good run going on the first run, did a good time, had a quicker lap going and I spun, caused a red," Tracy said. "We went out early because the track was fairly empty. We needed to establish a time. Looked like the weather was maybe going to get worse, raining. Went out and I ran a 59.6 and a 59.8 on the fourth lap. So it still wasn't quick enough, but it was good at that time. It gave a lot of guys a number to shoot for, and Bruno was able to put the lap together with one minute left."

Jourdain used his final lap of the day to claim the third position with a time of 1:00.002 (105.296 mph), while Servia joined Junqueira as the last drivers on the circuit. Servia steadily lowered his time on his last two laps, but would settle for the fourth spot on the opening-day time charts after a lap of 1:00.009 (105.284 mph). Servia sat on the pole for much of the session after his first stint, moving to the top after Tracy's spin robbed him of his initial fast lap of 1:00.017.

Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made a series a fast laps late in the session as well, getting his last stint in as the track was at its best after the mid-afternoon rainstorms. Tagliani, who has finished no worse than seventh in his three previous Toronto starts, would end his day in the fifth spot after putting up a time of 1:00.221 (104.914 mph).

Portland winner Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would use his last stint to vault into the sixth spot after his first trip around the track left him well down in the order. The veteran rebounded late in the session to climb to sixth as he looks to reprise his own Toronto victory, which came in 1996. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would end up in the seventh spot, one place ahead of Darren Manning (#15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) who was the top rookie on the day.

Manning was also the fastest Reynard as well as the fastest rookie, putting up a top lap of 1:00.586 (104.282 mph) on his first time at the Toronto street circuit. The veteran Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) found himself sandwiched by rookies in the ninth spot, the Herdez driver slotting in behind the neophyte Manning and ahead of Cleveland winner and rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

The final grid for Sunday's event will be decided in final-round qualifying tomorrow, which begins at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The qualifying will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel beginning at 1:30 p.m.. Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto will also be shown live on CBS Sports beginning at 12:30 p.m.

TOP THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES:

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA:

"Like with 12 minutes to go, we had a few drops of rain. But then all that time was a lot of people on track. That was one of my lucky things. A lot of people went out between 14 and 12 minutes. I started to feel a little bit of rain. I told the team, we had to wait because it started to rain a little bit, but not enough to make the track slippery."

PAUL TRACY:

"I think the track changes throughout the weekend. Obviously, right now the track is probably in its worst condition because there's no rubber on it. As the track builds rubber, you'll be able to do more and more consecutive fast laps. But right now it's quite hard on the tire."

MICHEL JOURDAIN JR:

"The track should be a lot faster tomorrow. So then the only guy set is Bruno, because everything else is going to change. The car feels okay. We just have to see what the track and the weather does tomorrow."

NOTEWORTHY:

The top three drivers in today's first round of qualifying were also the top three drivers in the championship. (Tracy, Junqueira and Jourdain)

Alex Sperafico ended the day 17th out of 19 in his very first CART Champ Car qualifying session with a time of 1:02.387 (101.271 mph)

Bruno Junqueira raised his point total to 110 by leading today's qualifying and guarantees himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race. He has started in the front row twice already this year, finishing fourth at Germany and second at Laguna Seca. He has yet to start on pole this year.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Alex Sperafico , Michel Jourdain