Team Player's driver Paul Tracy continues to be the man to beat this year in the CART Champ Cars as he just squeezed out the fast time to take the provisional pole at the inaugural Brands Hatch race. Paul Tracy. Photo by Michael ...
Team Player's driver Paul Tracy continues to be the man to beat this year in the CART Champ Cars as he just squeezed out the fast time to take the provisional pole at the inaugural Brands Hatch race.
Tracy set the fastest time during first qualifying to ensure a front row spot for the London Champ Car Trophy race. His lap was the quickest of the day as he rode the kerbs around Brands Hatch to qualify ahead of Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais.
"I really laid it down on that last lap, it was breathtaking" said Tracy as he stepped from his car. "It takes a little bit of pressure off tomorrow but definitely we think we have a car where we can do it again tomorrow".
Tracy's best lap was clocked at 37.006 seconds (115.960 mph) just 0.016 seconds ahead of Junqueira's best lap of 37.022 seconds (115.909 mph). The Newman/Haas teammate of Junqueira, rookie Bourdais' best lap was 37.112 seconds (115.628 mph).
"Unfortunately, just lost the pole by thousandths of a second." commented Junquiera. "But I think the PacifiCare, Newman/Haas team did a great job. I was able to put a good lap time, but not enough to catch Tracy. But I think with one night's sleep, I think about the track, I think tomorrow I'll drive a little bit better around here. And we going to try to improve the car, as well, to see if we can move up a little bit tomorrow."
Oriol Servia put down the early pressure on his final lap with a time of 37.254 seconds that was a quarter of a second quicker than anyone else at that point.
The first driver to eventually beat this was Junqueira who tried a mixture of kerb-hopping and smooth driving during his stint to go a quarter of a second quicker than Servia.
Bourdais was charging from his very first lap and his smooth driving rewarded him with second place at the time of his run, 0.1 seconds behind Junqueira, which became third place after Tracy's lap.
Local hero Darren Manning seems to have peaked too early after a couple of fast warm-up laps and set his fastest time of 37.565s on his third lap. He was unable to beat this on lap four and remained in second place at the time which fell to fifth by the end of the session.
Patrick Carpentier had set the early place before Servia's lap --he gradually picked up pace over his four laps and on his latter laps he was running over kerbs and the car was twitching under acceleration. He set a time of 37.580s on his final lap to go fastest of all at the time and sixth by the end of the session.
There was action early on in the session as Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't get as far as the start line for his flying lap. He lost control of his car on the long right-hander that leads on to the pit straight and the car spun round and stalled in the middle of the track. After a couple of minutes of sitting stationary he was given a push by the marshals and he toured back to the pit lane without setting a time.
Also there was some confusion as the first two drivers, Joel Camathias and Tiago Monteiro, were white-flagged one lap early and so only completed three flying laps. They both attempted to requalify, which involved completing a four lap run where only the fourth lap counted. Both drivers improved their fastest times on their final laps and Monteiro ultimately finished twelfth.
Brands Hatch's relatively short lap, measured at 1.262 miles, allowed only a short time for the drivers to warm up their tyres. Most drivers used the first two laps of their four lap run to warm up the tyres, put in a banker on lap three, and then push hard on their final lap. This led to some late braking, particularly at Druids Hairpin for Patrick Lemarie and Joel Camathias who both ran wide on hot laps and lost a few tenths.
However, the drivers were happy at the end of the first day's running. "Brands Hatch is a beautiful track ... I am enjoying this a lot," said Michel Jourdain, who qualified ninth.