CART Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy rides Canadian wave to first-day pole at Molson Indy Vancouver. VANCOUVER (July 25, 2003) -- The points leader of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford took a big...
CART Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy rides Canadian wave to first-day pole at Molson Indy Vancouver.
VANCOUVER (July 25, 2003) -- The points leader of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford took a big step toward his first-ever CART Champ Car title two weeks ago with a popular win in front of the home crowd in Toronto, and Friday Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rode the wave of Canadian success to more glory as he paced the first day of qualifying for Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver.
Tracy thrilled a Friday-record crowd of 45,023 at Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place by rolling to the first day pole, putting up a lap of 61.706 seconds (103.906 mph) to show the way around the 1.781-mile street course. Tracy earned a championship point by leading the session, giving him 140 on the season, and also earned him a guaranteed front-row starting spot for Sunday's event.
The points leader came out midway through the first round of qualifying and posted his best lap on just his fifth trip around the Vancouver layout. He stayed out through the last minutes of the session to try and better his time as a pair of Newman/Haas Racing machines along with the new Rocketsports Racing entry with Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) set up for their final efforts.
All three cars would come close and all would have varying degrees of disappointment afterwards, but none would be able to eclipse the time of Tracy, who will start in the front row for the eighth time in the year's 11 races. The championship point earned widened his gap in the series standings to 16 over Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The morning practice leader, Junqueira would end the day in the second spot after carding a top lap of 61.845 seconds (103.672 mph) on his final lap of the 40-minute qualifying session. He and Tagliani, who placed fourth in first-day qualifying, would keep the stewards on the clock a bit longer as both the Newman/Haas and the Rocketsports camps both raised concerns over alleged blocking during the session. Stewards immediately got to work reviewing tape of the session and were still reviewing the tapes nearly two hours after the checkered flag flew over the qualifying run. As of the writing of this release, no official protests had been filed by either team over the incidents.
Junqueira and Tagliani were split on the scoresheet by rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was the only other driver along with Junqueira and Tracy to break the 62-second barrier. Bourdais waited until late in the session to roll off of Pit Lane as did many of the drivers, then got caught by a red flag period that left him with only 12 minutes to run 15 qualifying laps. Bourdais, like his teammate, put up a strong lap of 61.921 seconds (103.545 mph) late in the outing but ran out of time before he could run down Tracy.
"I was about ready for the qualifying session," Bourdais said. "Unfortunately, as Bruno said, we got a red, then I only got one shot, with one set of tires. I was pretty happy with the car. As everybody, I think I got someone in my way on one of my biggest laps."
Only five drivers would venture out to make qualifying runs in the first 15 minutes of the session, and then the wick got turned up on those that didn't go out when Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) stuck the nose of his car under the tire barrier in Turn 12. The resulting red flag would cost the Portuguese rookie a good lap, and kept the rest of the field on Pit Lane for more than five minutes as the CART Champ Car Simple Green Safety Team extricated the orange-and-blue race car.
Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the first half of the session, but saw his advantage erased quickly after the restart. Moreno would end up in the sixth spot in the session, which would give the Brazilian veteran his best starting spot of the year if it holds up through Saturday's final qualifying. Moreno would be joined in the third row after first-day qualifying by Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), as Servia put up the fifth-best time of the day as he chases his eighth consecutive top-six finish.
Rookie Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) would lead the Reynard contingent with a lap of 62.222 seconds (103.044 mph) putting the Brit in seventh place on the grid. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would end the day in eighth while 2003 race winners Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top 10.
The final grid for Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver will be set with final qualifying Saturday afternoon. The session can be seen live on SPEED Channel and will get underway at 4:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
TOP THREE QUOTES:
: I got blocked on my laps, but I'm not throwing protests around. And I don't complain. I've been doing this for 13 years. You know, that's the way the game is, you know. So what can I say? What goes around comes around. I've been blocked a hundred times -- hundreds of times over my career. That's just what happens.
Bruno Junqueira: I don't know about what Tracy said, but I didn't see the guys in front, you know. It was pretty early in the lap. Maybe he got traffic, but I think he backed off too much. He let the guys go like 10 seconds because I could not even see the guys in front, Jimmy or Adrian.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think Vancouver is not that much different than the rest of the tracks that I didn't know before (laughter). I discover pretty much every track this year. It's a bit easier than Toronto because of the conditions we got this morning. I've been able to put more laps on dry conditions.
* Paul Tracy has already equaled a single-season career-high with his eighth front-row starting spot. He started in one of the top-two spots on the grid eight times during the 1994 season, a year that saw him finish third in the standings.
* Oriol Servia will be looking to establish a new Patrick Racing team record Sunday by putting up his eighth consecutive top-six finish. Gordon Johncock currently shares the team record of seven straight top-six runs with Servia.
* Tiago Monteiro finished 19th on the grid after his crash midway through today's qualifying session. Monteiro had run just three laps before the accident and had posted a time of 62.707 seconds on his third lap, a time that would have put him 11th on the first-day grid.
* Friday's crowd of 45,023 was a event record for the first day of the Molson Indy Vancouver.