CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Saturday qualifying report

VANCOUVER (July 24, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy ( ...

VANCOUVER (July 24, 2004) -- Defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used a win from pole in last year's Molson Indy Vancouver as a vital part of his year-long trip that carried the Scarborough, Ontario native to the Vanderbilt Cup and his first series championship.

Tracy put himself in prime position to repeat the feat in Sunday's 85-lap Champ Car World Series race, earning the pole after Saturday's final qualifying, taking the top spot by virtue of Friday's top time of 60.870 seconds (105.333 mph). The Forsythe Championship Racing pilot had an event-filled session that started with a brief stop in the Turn 1 runoff area, and ended with smoke filtering from inside his car, but none of these would keep Tracy from earning his second pole of the 2004 season, in front of 50,801 of his countrymen.

Another cloudless sky and warm temperatures greeted drivers as they took to the 1.781-mile street course around Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place for final qualifying. The session started with times just a half-second off the official track record, but a choppy session would prevent drivers from significantly lowering their times as five of the top nine on tomorrow's grid earned their spot on the strength of their Friday times.

What that fact did was leave the door wide open for those that could find the speed on Friday, and led to one of the biggest surprises of the young season. Mexico's Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the best qualifying effort of his career, carding the fastest time of the session and earning his first-ever Champ Car front-row starting spot. The long-time Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic competitor that is running his second season in the Champ Cars, snapped off a lap of 60.980 seconds (105.143 mph) to lead Saturday's qualifying and earn the championship point for doing so. The run gives him the best starting spot of his career, besting a previous high of sixth set earlier this year in Milwaukee.

The Forsythe duo will look to keep the series points leader behind them as they head into the first corner tomorrow as Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will take the green flag from the third spot, sitting on Friday's time of 60.974 seconds (105.153 mph). Bourdais finished third in Vancouver a year ago on a day that saw him rebound from early contact to climb the podium.

The session rewarded those drivers that ventured out early as Lavin, Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Memo Gidley (#17 U.S. Air Force Reserve Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) all left the pits in search of a clear race track. The three drivers were able to run a full-bore first stint without regard for traffic, in a stint that saw each driver earn the time that would end up putting them in the top five.

Lavin turned his lap 13 minutes into the 35-minute session while Dominguez scored his fourth-place lap of 61.168 seconds (104.820 mph) a minute before Lavin. Gidley matched a Champ Car career best for road-course qualifying as the U.S. driver took the fifth spot with a best lap of 61.365 seconds (104.483 mph). Gidley, who sprinted from his Champ Car to a waiting police escort that took him to Portland for a touring car race that he was previously committed to, matched his 2001 effort from Cleveland where he finished second after starting fifth.

Fortunes turned for the rest of the field that had just begun their qualifying runs when Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) broke his suspension on the Turn 12 curbs, sending him into the tire barrier and out of the session with 15 minutes left to run. He would stand on his time of 61.459 seconds (104.323 mph) from Friday and will start eighth in tomorrow's event. The majority of the 18-car field roared off of Pit Lane when the session was restarted, making laps as they waited for the temperatures and pressures to come up in their Bridgestone Potenzas, since the tires were not at their absolute best until the drivers had put three or four high-speed laps on them.

That waited proved costly for most of the field however as Gaston Mazzacane (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the red flag with a trip into the Turn 1 tires. The scarlet banner waved with less than three minutes to go in the session, preventing the field from taking their best shots at the polesitting Tracy when the checkered flag fell on the session before the incident could be cleared from the track.

Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start sixth for the second week in a row after sitting on his Friday time while rookie Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) moved up five spots from Friday to snare the seventh spot. The co-leader in the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year Award, Wilson posted a time of 61.434 seconds (104.366 mph) to slot into seventh. Junqueira joins Wilson in the fourth row while Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

Tomorrow's 85-lap race gets the green flag at 1:00 local time (4 p.m. Eastern) and can be seen live on HDNet across the country, and on Spike TV, which will show the race live in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Fans can also follow the action by using the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin