DEFENDING MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO WINNER JUSTIN WILSON SWIPES CHAMP CAR POLE WITH LAST-LAP DASH TORONTO (July 8, 2006) -- A two-man shootout in Saturday's final qualifying for the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto was ended by a shot from the ...
DEFENDING MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO WINNER JUSTIN WILSON SWIPES CHAMP CAR POLE WITH LAST-LAP DASH
TORONTO (July 8, 2006) -- A two-man shootout in Saturday's final qualifying for the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto was ended by a shot from the gallery on a sunny Canadian Saturday as Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went from fourth to first on his last lap to steal the Bridgestone Pole Position for Sunday's Champ Car World Series event.
Wilson turned in a quick lap of 58.182 seconds (108.590 mph) on the last of his 12 trips around the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street circuit, vaulting two-time defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as well as Friday qualifying leader A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The effort gave Wilson his first Bridgestone Pole Position of the year and the third of his Champ Car career. It is the first for him and his RuSPORT team since the Mexico City season finale a year ago -- a race Wilson went on to win.
The RuSPORT driver had spent most of the 30-minute qualifying session trying to find a clear path around the 11-turn course, and with 27 of the 30 minutes gone Wilson was the only driver running that had failed to improve on his time from Friday's first round. But the defending Toronto winner finally broke through on his 11th lap and then used his last pass around the circuit to take the pole.
For the balance of the session, the battle had been between Bourdais and Allmendinger as they swapped the pole position four times between them. Bourdais needed just three laps to better yesterday's session-leading time of Allmendinger, while the Californian came back and reclaimed the top spot on his fourth pass. Two laps later it was Bourdais back at the top of the heap as Allmendinger headed into the pits for fresh Bridgestone rubber.
Much like Friday when the Forsythe team sent Allmendinger back out quickly to take advantage of a clear track, today's session saw Allmendinger and his teammate Paul Tracy (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spending just enough time on pit lane to change into the red-rimmed alternate Bridgestone Potenzas before heading back into the fray.
That move paid off, much like it did yesterday, in clear track for the Forsythe duo as most of the remainder of the field was still in the pits. Allmendinger again put the strategy to good use, wresting the pole from Bourdais on his second lap out of the pits, logging the time of 58.264 seconds (108.437 mph) that would stand as his final qualifying effort.
As he did on Friday, Allmendinger cashed out a little early and watched the waning laps of the session from his pit box, while Wilson, Tracy, Bourdais and Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) lined up for their final laps. Bourdais could never quite find the hole in the traffic he needed to challenge for the pole, coming closest on the his final lap before settling for a time of 58.345 seconds (108.287 mph). Tracy ended up fourth after failing to improve on his final stint, taking the fourth position on tomorrow's grid with a time of 58.576 seconds (107.860 mph).
Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro/Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his second consecutive top-five starting spot, ending up fifth with a time of 58.920 seconds (107.230 mph). Canadian teenager Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) thrilled the home fans with a sixth-place run, using a late-session fast lap to get into the top six. The starting spot for Andrew is far and away his best of the season, having failed to start in the top 10 in any of the first six races of the 2006 season.
Friday's third-placed driver Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fell to seventh on Saturday while da Matta checked in with the eighth-best time. Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was ninth while Canadian star Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
Tagliani's Team Australia stablemate Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the highest-qualifying rookie, claiming the 12th position with a time of 59.687 seconds (105.852 mph).
The Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start 16th. Clarke brought out a red flag early in the session after contact in Turn Three. He was unable to post a time, as the incident occurred on his first flying lap.
Tomorrow's 86-lap Molson Grand Prix of Toronto will get underway at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen live in the United States on CBS Sports. Fans can also view the events from multiple camera angles with in-car audio available as well by using the Race Director feature which is found on the official website of the series, www.champcar.ws
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, I think the McDonald's car was really back to business today, so it was really enjoyable to drive. First run could have been better timing. We got some traffic, had to back off, probably just like everybody else, and then the track got better for sure. It's always disappointing when you feel you have the car to get the job done. I guess today there were probably three cars to be able to be on this pole. So, you know, good job to these two guys. We'll fight hard tomorrow anyway.
A.J. Allmendinger: The car has been close all weekend. It kind of brings me back to Portland where we were just close all weekend, got it exactly right for the race. My engineering staff has been amazing so far this year getting the car perfect for the race. The car just -- we just didn't have it perfect enough to get Justin. It will be great tomorrow. I think we can have a good race throughout the whole distance.
Justin Wilson: No matter where I was on track, I always had Oriol Servia in front of me. It was getting a little bit frustrating. Had to stay calm. Fortunately, he'd gone out early, so he pulled off, left me two clear laps. Just managed to put it all together and make it count. The car felt great. It's been working well all weekend. Just really pleased to have finally put that one lap together and make it count.
* Today's pole-winning time of 58.182 seconds by Justin Wilson is the fastest to win a Toronto pole since Cristiano da Matta ran a 58.135 to win the pole in 2002.
* A.J. Allmendinger will start on the front row for tomorrow's race, marking the first time in his three-year career that he has earned three consecutive front-row spots.
* Andrew Ranger gained nearly 1.4 seconds today over his Friday qualifying time, making him the only driver to improve more than a second in final qualifying. The effort also earned him five starting spots as he had qualified 11th on Friday before taking sixth today.
* All six rookies in the field are in the final six spots on the starting grid for Sunday's race, marking the first time this season that any of the rookies have failed to outqualify a veteran.