CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto Saturday qualifying report

Motorsport News International Toronto Canada July 18 1998 Franchitti secures pole on his return to Toronto. The flying Scot Dario Franchitti must have an affinity for the Toronto temporary street circuit. On the anniversary of his first Pole...

Motorsport News International Toronto Canada July 18 1998

Franchitti secures pole on his return to Toronto.

The flying Scot Dario Franchitti must have an affinity for the Toronto temporary street circuit. On the anniversary of his first Pole position in CART (Team Kool Green/Reynard/Honda/Firestone) Dario once again proved the master of this difficult circuit. His time of 58.694 seconds (105.558 MPH) proved just 0.043 faster than second placed Alex Zanardi. Dario said, " it is a difficult circuit here, it seemed to get more and more slippery". "I was sitting in my car and the team told me to go for it". " I went out and tried hard and got the pole".

Dario had to experience some highs and lows in the excitement of the end of the session. He was uncertain of his final position, as Alex Zanardi had been fast through out the session. Dario was forced to walk back from the Prince's Gate because of a tyre failure at the end of the session. The tyre deflated probably because of debris on the track after he had already set fastest lap of the session. "I could feel the car moving around and called the crew. I thought there was something wrong with the brakes or steering, until I looked in the mirrors and saw a big hole in one of the rear tyres. So much for being sensitive to the feel of the car!".

In repeating his pole of last year, Dario also sets himself up to avoid a repeat of last year when Bobby Rahal hit him from behind at the first turn, and he failed to finish the race. "I am not sure I can learn from last year. The things I have to remember is to "start faster, brake later, and be nice to Michael (Andretti, starting third)."

Second position driver Alex Zanardi (Target / Chip Ganassi Reynard Honda) was surprisingly upbeat for a man beaten by such a small margin. His time of 58.737 only narrowly being beaten today. Obviously his confidence is at a high point right now and did not seem phased by not getting pole. His time from yesterday's session was good enough for him to hold on to a front row grid sport.

Alex's only real concern was traffic in the session and the difficulty in getting a clear lap. "I really feel sorry for those people waving Blue flags out there. It means absolutely nothing to most of the drivers". With Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti nodding agreement he expressed some disappointment at the deteriorating attitude to the blue flags in CART racing. However, it was an observation and not a complaint as Alex is permanently optimistic of late.

Even as his fame grows he seems to take such things as " 20 cameras aimed at me while I am in the restroom" in his stride. He has matured his approach to life in the last couple of years including overcoming his fear on race morning. " I used to be a little scared when I got up on Sunday morning before a race. But now I really can't wait to get out the hotel room". Winning seems to have made life easier in many ways for Alex.

More downbeat was the third place man Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford). While setting second fastest time today, he was not fast enough to beat Alex Zanardi's time from Friday and so starts from the inside of the second row. Michael showed his consistency over the weekend by remaining in the top three qualifiers from Friday.

Although fast throughout the session today Michael was nonetheless disappointed. "I screwed up. I should have had the pole but I made a mistake in one of the turns that screwed me up for the rest of the lap". His performance does bode well for the beleaguered Goodyear runners however as he seems to have a much better qualifying performance here than in previous races. Michael asserted "The car is good and we can win, but I think we'll need some yellows tomorrow".

So the race on Sunday is set to be closely contested. At least by those of Italian heritage, a background shared by the top three qualifiers. Less the .2 seconds covers the top four qualifiers (including Gil de Ferran, fourth) so a close match is expected and the consistency that is hard to come on this circuit will be the key.

Dario related afterwards that his car "is not nice to drive, but it is the fastest one out there, so it must be OK". "I would like it to feel more consistent as aiming for the apexes is important on a street circuit. But my car feels like it is moving from side to side under braking".

Notably the local hero, Paul Tracy (Team Kool Green / Reynard Honda) improved from his 22nd position of Friday. He was clearly frustrated but seemed genuine in congratulating his team-mate Franchitti. Of possible significance is that the settings on the two team cars are almost identical for the first time this year. And Dario is faster "all around the circuit". So Paul may need to find the speed from within this weekend.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Chip Ganassi