CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Friday qualifying report

Paul Tracy Leads First-Day Champ Car Qualifying in Vancouver VANCOUVER (July 23, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy ( ...

Paul Tracy Leads First-Day Champ Car Qualifying in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (July 23, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) knew that he needed a strong performance heading into this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver, and put forth an extra effort during Friday's first round of qualifying to ensure himself a successful race day.

That extra effort paid off well after the 750hp turbocharged engines had cooled after qualifying as Tracy's first-day leading time would be taken away when Champ Car stewards found the 2003 Vancouver winner guilty of blocking during the qualifying session. But Tracy's second-best lap of the day was still good enough to top the charts, allowing the Canadian star to score a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race on the 1.781-mile street course around Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place.

Tracy led an 18-car field on another picture-perfect weather day in British Columbia to earn a championship point and guarantee himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday, eventually ending up with a final time of 1:00.870 (105.333 mph). The run boosts Tracy's point total to 109 for the year and gives him a front-row starting spot for the third consecutive Champ Car event.

He nosed out series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to score the first-day pole, but Tracy and a crowd of 44,213 held their collective breath as Bourdais made a last-ditch effort at upending the crowd favorite.

Tracy went out early to take advantage of a clear track to run his first qualifying stint, taking the early lead ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Tracy's second stint saw more improvement in his qualifying speeds, eventually leading to the pole, but it left him through his 15 laps with two minutes left on the session clock. So all eyes were on Bourdais as Tracy unstrapped himself from his Indeck-sponsored mount, and the Frenchman gave them something to watch as he carded a time of 1:00.974 (105.153 mph) on his penultimate lap. With all eyes, including some concerned sets in the Forsythe pit, on the series points leader, Bourdais would come up just short and settle for the second spot on the day.

Behind them, Tracy's teammate Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would find himself enduring the same fate as his stablemate. Carpentier ran in the top five for most of the 35-minute session, vaulting to third on his 15th and final lap of qualifying, posting a time of 1:01.370 (104.474 mph). However, Carpentier did not get the signal that he was on his last lap and proceeded to begin a 16th lap, drawing a penalty that cost him his fastest time of the day. Fortunately for the four-time race winner, his second-best lap of 1:01.398 (104.427 mph) would be good enough to give him the third-best time of the day.

Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored a lap of 1:01.459 (104.323 mph) to end the day in the fourth spot while Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it three Canadians in the top five as he hung a time of 1:10.539 (104.188 mph) to snare the fifth position.

Hunter-Reay would have to settle for the sixth position on the first-day grid after leading the first 10 minutes of the session, winding up with a top time of 1:01.742 (103.845 mph). Oriol Servia (#11YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put his Dale Coyne Racing machine into seventh on the day while Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished eighth despite the fact that he didn't even strap into his car until 25 of the session's 35 minutes had elapsed.

Memo Gidley (#17 U.S. Air Force Reserve Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got the nod for a second consecutive event in the second Rocketsports Racing machine, and showed why he was the man for the job Friday as he scored the ninth-best time of the day, getting around the circuit in 1:02.071 (103.295 mph). He finished a scant .005 seconds ahead of Toronto runner-up Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who rounded out the day's top 10.

Rookie points co-leader A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led all rookies with a best time of 1:02.135 (103.188 mph), putting him just ahead of the man he is knotted with atop the rookie standings Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who earned a best time of 1:02.153 (103.158 mph) to place 12th on the first-day grid.

The final grid for Sunday's 85-lap Molson Indy Vancouver will be set with final qualifying tomorrow, beginning at 4:45 p.m. Eastern Time. Fans can follow the session live on HDNet, as well as by using the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS:

PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am very happy with our results today. We didn't get off to a good start this morning. The Indeck car felt good, but it was not posting the time we were looking for. We made some changes in the afternoon and the car came alive during qualifying. We went out early after debating what to do. We didn't want to run into traffic. We had a good first run posting a fast time, then backed it up with an excellent second stint and posted a solid time. Then I had to sit and watch, it was hard knowing the Newman/Haas cars were still out and running, but we were able to lock the provisional pole."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am pretty happy; the McDonald's car was good. We had a difficult morning; running into red flags every time we went out onto the track. The first run during qualifying was good, but I made a small mistake. The second run was better, but we still did not have a perfect lap. We will tweak the car a little tonight so we can give Paul (Tracy) a run tomorrow and hopefully repeat our success in Toronto."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "Well, I am pretty happy with how things went today. Third is not bad, we would have liked a better time. The first stint went well. However, the second stint was a little more difficult. I ran into a train of traffic and never really had a clear track to improve my time. There is still tomorrow. Today doesn't really mean much unless you get the pole."

NOTEWORTHY

* Paul Tracy will start on the front row for the third consecutive event Sunday, although he failed to finish on the podium in either of his previous two races. Tracy strung four consecutive front-row starts together on two separate occasions last year, finishing either first or second in seven of those races.

* Memo Gidley may be making only his second start in the Rocketsports Racing machine this year, but the U.S. racer knows his way around the Vancouver layout. He has three previous Champ Car starts in Vancouver with a best finish of 10th coming in 2001. The U.S. Air Force Reserve-sponsored driver also won from pole in Vancouver while in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 1997.

* Gaston Mazzacane suffered a pair of penalties on the day, once for blocking and once for exceeding the 15-lap qualifying limit. He qualified 18th on the day but will have a chance to improve his standing in Saturday's final session.

* Today's session-leading time of 1:00.870 is just .531 seconds off the track-record time set by Cristiano da Matta in 2001. Da Matta won the 2002 pole with a time of 1:00.339 (106.260 mph) and went on to win the race.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gaston Mazzacane , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing