CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Friday qualifying report

Paul Tracy thrills Canadian crowd of 44,723 by taking CART provisional. VANCOUVER, British Columbia (July 26, 2002) - Nearly 45,000 fans crowded the paddock on the opening day of practice and qualifying for the CART Molson Indy Vancouver on ...

Paul Tracy thrills Canadian crowd of 44,723 by taking CART provisional.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (July 26, 2002) - Nearly 45,000 fans crowded the paddock on the opening day of practice and qualifying for the CART Molson Indy Vancouver on Friday, and Canada's own Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) sent them away happy as he took the provisional pole for Sunday's CART FedEx Championship Series event.

Tracy took the provisional pole - along with the guaranteed front-row starting spot and single CART championship point that goes with it - with a best lap of 61.888 seconds (103.600 mph/166.728 km/h), posting his best time just a minute before Bruno Junqueira (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would end the session by crashing into a tire barrier. Tracy's championship point gives him 51 on the season and moves him to within one point of the three-way logjam of drivers tied for the eighth spot in the season standings.

The run was .051 seconds quicker than that of runner-up Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone), who would score the second spot on the provisional grid with a trip around the 1.781-mile street course in 61.939 seconds (103.515 mph/166.590 km/h). Dixon made a huge improvement on his final lap to vault into the second spot as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing sophomore looks to score his first-ever front-row starting spot in the CART FedEx Championship Series, his previous best of third coming on the road courses of Laguna Seca and Road America.

Dixon would knock TCGR stablemate Kenny Brack (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone), back to the third spot as Brack's lap of 61.948 seconds (103.500 mph/166.566 km/h) would be all that the morning practice leader would get out of his machine before his teammate's crash. Junqueira would end the session with little more than two minutes remaining as he had trouble with his front suspension heading into the high-speed sixth turn. The suspension problem caused the winner of this season's CART FedEx Championship Series event in Motegi, Japan to lose control and crash hard into the tire barrier in the runoff lane. The car spun off of the first set of tires and hit another set further down the runoff area. The car was heavily damaged but the Brazilian driver was uninjured.

Track-record holder Dario Franchitti (#27 Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) held the top spot for much of the early part of the 60-minute session, but would settle for the fourth position on the provisional grid. The Scot was the final driver to break the 62-second barrier on the 12-turn street course, making a circuit in 61.990 seconds (103.430 mph/166.453 km/h) to snare the fourth spot.

Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top five with an orbit of 62.179 seconds (103.115 mph/165.947 km/h), a starting effort that - if the Brazilian veteran can make it hold up in Saturday's final qualifying - will be the best that the nephew of former CART champion Emerson Fittipaldi has managed in his six previous Vancouver starts.

Speed is always the determining factor in any qualifying session, but the speed and timing made the difference in the sixth and seventh spot on the provisional grid on Friday as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) tied with a best effort of 62.195 seconds (103.089 mph/166.728 km/h), but Jourdain would take the sixth spot on the grid by virtue of having set his best time before Andretti was able to complete his run.

Jourdain's teammate Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was not as fortunate, ending his day in the 14th spot. The former CART champion made a run that would have put him fourth on the provisional grid, but saw that time erased from the books after he caused a red flag with a crash into the Turn Six tire barrier.

Defending Molson Indy Vancouver polesitter Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would card the eighth-best time of the day with his teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) just .106 seconds behind him in the ninth spot while Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) would round out the top 10.

The final grid will be set with another qualifying session on Saturday, a session that can be seen live on SPEED Channel, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.


PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): (On figuring out the chassis) "That's obviously helped us out here. We've been getting better and better each week with the Lola. Today it was difficult to get a clear lap because the course is short. We were plagued by traffic and I was a little frustrated at first. My first lap was probably around 80 percent because we were just trying to get up to speed. There was a lot left in the car when we turned that lap. I think if you talk to anybody out there they'll tell you they could have gone faster. We got out there at the right time." (On starting on the front row here Sunday) "It's a great position for me to be in as a Canadian. Starting on the front row here, like we managed to do in Toronto, is going to help a lot on a tight course like this one."

SCOTT DIXON (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "We got into some luck I think when the course went red. We tried some different developmental situations with the car, so we ended up going out earlier than usual. It seemed like we had quite a bit of understeer in the car but I haven't spoken with our engineers as of yet. We're looking to improve on this tomorrow."

KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think it was a good day for us. We were really fast this morning and we had that in the car this afternoon for sure. We were unlucky though because of the way the red flags fell. I guess we'll just see if we can improve and see what happens tomorrow."


* Paul Tracy will be looking for his first-ever Vancouver pole in tomorrow's final qualifying, hoping to back up his provisional polewinning run from Friday. Tracy is the 2000 champion of the Molson Indy Vancouver, a race that he started from the second spot on the grid.

* Scott Dixon will be looking for the first front-row starting spot of his CART career if his second-place run from Friday holds up. Dixon has never started better than third in his Champ Car career.

* Points leader Cristiano da Matta (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) suffered through the worst qualifying session of the 2002 season on Friday, ending his day 16th of the 18 starters. Da Matta ran the session in his backup car and would settle for a best time of 63.020 seconds (101.739 mph/163.733 km/h).

* Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) made his return to the CART series on Friday, stepping into the Patrick Racing ride to replace Townsend Bell after missing the last six races. The Spaniard qualified 15th with a time of 62.912 seconds (101.914 mph/164.014 km/h).

* The Friday crowd of 44,723 was the second-highest in the 12-year history of the Molson Indy Vancouver, second only to the opening-day crowd of 44,898 from the 1998 race.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain