CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Saturday Qualifying Notes

The weather cannot be any better as the time for the final round of qualifying approaches. Brilliant sunshine coupled with temperatures in the low seventies; just about makes one forget about last Sunday! The final round of qualifying takes the ...

The weather cannot be any better as the time for the final round of qualifying approaches. Brilliant sunshine coupled with temperatures in the low seventies; just about makes one forget about last Sunday! The final round of qualifying takes the Green Flag at 1:45 p.m. and will feature the split-Group format with the faster drivers from yesterday's qualifying sessions in Group Two. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ will defend his Provisional Pole speed of 103.223 mph (1:08.636) against a field of 24 other drivers. GREEN FLAG waves at 1:45 p.m. to start the final qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 106 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 69 degrees F. at the start of the session

At 1:48 p.m., #26 TRACY brushes the wall at Turn 11 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 1:51 p.m., #96 SERVIA makes nose-to-tail contact with #8X BRACK at Turn 11. #8X BRACK continues on course, but #96 SERVIA stalls on the edge of the race course.

At 1:53 p.m., #8X BRACK logs the fastest lap of the weekend and takes over the Pole position with a speed of 103.248 mph (1:08.619) on his fourth lap of the session.

At 1:54 p.m., #25 GARCIA Jr. stalls on course at the entrance to Turn 6. The driver pulls to the side of the track with smoke showing at the rear of the car.

RED FLAG waves at 1:55 p.m. for a track inspection after #10 FONTANA dramatically slows on course at Turn 6 and travels to his Pit Box showing smoke from the rear of the car. CART safety officials use the opportunity to retrieve the stalled cars of #25 GARCIA Jr. from the track as well as #96 SERVIA. All three drivers will receive the standard eight-minute penalty for delaying the qualifying session before they can rejoin Group One.

At 1:55 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session and under a Red Flag, the fastest driver is #8X BRACK with a lap of 103.248 mph (1:08.619), followed by #26 TRACY (102.918 mph; 1:08.839) and #32 GIDLEY (102.835 mph; 1:08.895).

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:02 p.m. to resume the Group One qualifying session. At 2:04 p.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course to the Turn 5 re-entry without apparent damage to the car. At 2:05 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest Group One driver is #8X BRACK with a lap of 103.744 mph (1:08.291; first-overall), followed by #26 TRACY (102.918 mph; 1:08.839; ninth overall) and #32 GIDLEY (102.835 mph; 1:08.895; tenth overall).

At 2:06 p.m., #34 SALLES slides into the run-off at Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:12 p.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 9 and stalls the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2:15 p.m. to end the Group One qualifying session with #8X BRACK the fastest driver with a lap of 103.744 mph (1:08.291; first- overall), followed by #32 GIDLEY (103.393 mph; 1:08.523; second overall) and #33 TAGLIANI (103.354 mph; 1:08.549; third-fastest overall).

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session.

At 2:34 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI cuts the inside corner at Turn 4 a bit too close and breaks the right front wheel of his car. The car slides to the outside of the corner and makes contact with the left rear wheel against the tire barrier. FRANCHITTI continues on course slowly to his Pit Area with two broken wheels, spilling debris.

RED FLAG waves at 2:35 p.m. to allow CART safety workers to clean up the debris from the FRANCHITTI incident. FRANCHITTI receives the standard eight-minute penalty for delaying the qualifying session.

At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session and under the Red Flag, the fastest Group Two driver is #12 VASSER (101.922 mph; 1:09.512; 10th -overall), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (101.919 mph; 1:09.514; 11th -overall) and #55 KANAAN (101.814 mph; 1:09.586; 12th -overall).

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:41 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.

At 2:42 p.m., #1 MONTOYA brushes the wall at Turn 11 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:44 p.m., #7 PAPIS brushes the wall at Turn 11 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:45 p.m., #5 HERTA clocks the second-fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 103.644 mph (1:08.357; second-overall) on his fifth lap of the Group Two session.

At 2:46 p.m., #2X de FERRAN takes over the Pole with a speed of 104.028 mph (1:08.105).

RED FLAG waves at 2:46 p.m. after #3 CASTRO-NEVES slides nose-first into the tire barrier at the inside of Turn 1 after loosing control under braking for the left-hand turn. The driver is uninjured in the incident, but the car sustains damage to the right front wing. CART safety workers get the car restarted and CASTRO-NEVES continues to his Pit Area.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:49 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.

At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is #2X de FERRAN with a lap of 104.028 mph (1:08.105; first-overall), followed by #5 HERTA (103.756 mph; 1:08.283; second-overall) and #12 VASSER (103.712 mph; 1:08.312; fourth-overall).

At 2:51 p.m., the penalty for #27 FRANCHITTI expires but the driver does not re-enter the Group Two session in a secondary car.

At 2:56 p.m., #97 da MATTA brushes the wall at Turn 11 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:57 p.m., #1 MONTOYA takes over the top spot with a speed of 104.182 (1:08.004) on his ninth lap of the Group Two session.

Again at 2:57 p.m., #12 VASSER clocks the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 104.645 mph (1:07.703) on his eighth lap of the session and takes over the Pole.

And again at 2:57 p.m., #11 FITTIPALDI brushes the wall at Turn 8 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

And finally, again at 2:57 p.m., #2X de FERRAN retakes the Pole with a lap of 104.969 mph (1:07.494) on his ninth lap.

At 2:58 p.m., #97 da MATTA brushes the wall at Turn 11 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:59 p.m., #40 FERNANDEZ slides into the run-off at Turn 9 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the Group Two qualifying session with #2X de FERRAN the fastest Group Two driver and overall with his ninth-lap speed of 104.969 mph (1:07.494), followed by #12 VASSER (104.969 mph; 1:07.703) and #1 MONTOYA (104.213 mph; 1:07.984).

GIL de FERRAN wins the Pole Position for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with his speed of 104.969 mph (1:07.494). The Brazilian logs his eighth career pole and the second of the season in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard. This also represents de FERRAN's third pole at Long Beach as he won the honor in 1996 and 1997.

JIMMY VASSER will line up second on the grid in his Target/Team Ganassi Toyota Lola by virtue of his 104.645 mph (1:07.703 second)-lap. This will be VASSER's career-best start at Long Beach. VASSER started third in the 1996 race. This is VASSER's first front-row start on a road/street course since he won the Pole at Cleveland in 1998.

JUAN MONTOYA starts third tomorrow in his Target/Team Ganassi Toyota Lola after clocking a 104.213-mph (1:07.984-second) lap. This is the fourth consecutive Top-Three start for MONTOYA, dating back to Fontana at the end of 1999. In 11 CART career starts on road/street courses for MONTOYA, the Colombian has started inside the top eight positions ten times. The top nine cars on the grid are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 20 cars separated by less than two seconds. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 cars to the track in today's qualifying sessions with secondary cars utilized by #8X BRACK, #96X SERVIA, and #19X KUROSAWA. CART drivers logged a total of 241 laps in the two group qualifying sessions.

Quotes from today's top three qualifiers follow:

GIL DE FERRAN: "It was a very nerve-wracking qualifying session. Every time it looked like you had a good lap, somebody else would come along. The car's been handling quite well all weekend. Today we managed to get a reasonably fast lap, although I brushed the wall on my fast lap and it slowed me down a little bit. Tommorow's a different day, these guys are are pretty tough. Hopefully I'm just going to disappear off at the start and it will be the most boring race you've ever seen. But with all these guys, I don't think that's going to happen."

JIMMY VASSER: "It's been going pretty good. We've been running a lot of old tires in practice so we hadn't done a lot of fast laps in practice, but we were good in qualifying. We've got a good handle on the setup of the car, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I think we've got a shot at the race win tomorrow. We've been struggling the last couple of seasons, but I certainly feel a lot more comfortable now. I'm pretty happy with the car and if we can just keep the consistency, we should be there for the championship. We've got a great group of people on the race team. That gives us a lot of confidence. But you've got to give Chip Ganassi credit because he's made some pretty bold decisions on the chassis and engine that don't seem so ludicrous right now. But you still have to give most of the credit to the guys working under the tent."

JUAN MONTOYA: "All weekend we were really struggling with the setup. (Engineer) Bill (Pappas) has been working really hard on the setup. In qualifying, I was surprised how far I went. I thought it was going to be a really tough time."

This concludes the Track Notes for today from Long Beach, California. We'll see you tomorrow for the running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach! Have a great evening!

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi