by Tom Haapanen - Motorsport.com The rain that fell on Friday during the first qualifying session made some changes to the usual Saturday qualifying scene. First, it ensured that the Friday's slow group (determined by their Cleveland ...
by Tom Haapanen - Motorsport.com
The rain that fell on Friday during the first qualifying session made some changes to the usual Saturday qualifying scene. First, it ensured that the Friday's slow group (determined by their Cleveland qualifying times) stayed the slow one, keeping the same drivers together on both days - with the exception of Christian Fittipaldi, who had been the fastest in Friday's rain, and had earned a promotion to the faster group.
Second, it added an element of desperation to the first session. With limited setup time on a dry track, the drivers in the first group had less information to work with than they might have hoped for, and this was the first opportunity to really gauge their qualifying potential.
Kenny Brack and Adrian Fernandez were clearly the two fastest in the first group, with Paul Tracy and Max Papis following behind. Brack stopped the clocks at 57.984 on his best lap, the only sub-58-second time in the session, an outstanding performance considering the small amount of dry practice time on a track he saw for the first time on Friday.
However, the effort was to fall short of what was needed to gain a qualifying position in the first few rows. Michael Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti were trading was times for much of the second session. Franchitti put a stop to that, though, by plowing into the tire barrier at Turn 8 midway through the session, and bringing out the red flags.
Fortunately Cristiano da Matta was willing and able to take over for the Scot, and he jumped into the fray with both feet. As the minutes ticked away toward the end of the final session, da Matta pulled a out a blistering time of 57.539, second only to Castroneves' 57.200, to lay claim to the second front-row position.
There might have been more action yet in the final minutes, but Roberto Moreno, da Matta, and Jimmy Vasser all spun in the dying moments, denying the chance for a fast lap for not only themselves, but anyone else as well.
So Andretti had to be satisfied with third - making it a Honda-Toyota-Ford top three - ahead of his archrival, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Franchitti in fifth. Fittipaldi was the only other driver in the second group to best Brack's time, pipping him by mere 0.035 seconds to grasp the final spot on the third row.
Montoya's Target teammate, Jimmy Vasser, and the current CART championship points leader, Roberto Moreno, both had rather forgettable qualifying sessions, and the two will start well back in the field, in 13th and 16th places, respectably.
With the difficulty of passing on this temporary street circuit, the qualifying results bear much more significance than they will at next week's Michigan 500 at the MIS superspeedway.
Castroneves is poised to grasp another CART FedEx championship victory tomorrow, but right behind him on the grid will be a five-time Toronto winner, Michael Andretti, so he certainly will be taking nothing for granted. And one should not ignore da Matta, Montoya or Franchitti, either -- this one will definitely be one hard fight.