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St Petersburg IndyCar: Will Power starts season with pole

Will Power, Penske, St Petersburg IndyCar 2013Will Power will start Sunday's IndyCar season-opener in St Petersburg from pole position after triumphing in an upset-laden qualifying session on the Floridian street circuit.

The Penske driver sealed the top spot with a 1m01.2070s lap to claim the 30th pole of his career, an achievement that moves him past Dario Franchitti into seventh on the all-time list.

It was his fourth straight St Petersburg pole and he broke the track record in the process.

"I never knew you could make so many changes to a car through qualifying," said Power.

"In between each round it's kind of hard to find a balance all weekend, but it seemed very nice on used tyres. Going into the final round was kind of straightforward; just go out there and give it everything I had."

AUTOSPORT's 2013 IndyCar season guide

Takuma Sato gifted his new team AJ Foyt Enterprises with a front row start for their first race together by going second-fastest, while Simona de Silvestro backed up her early weekend pace by setting the third-quickest time.

"Each session went better," said de Silvestro. "We made a few changes every time, and I'm really happy with P3. It's kind of a huge relief to be in this position.

"I really have to thank everybody that's supported me through the difficult years we've had so far and to make it now into starting third for the first race of the season is pretty awesome."

James Hinchcliffe was the only Andretti driver to make it through to the Fast Six, the Canadian edging Helio Castroneves out of fourth.

Rookie Tristan Vautier completed the top six for Sam Schmidt Motorsport.

It was a tough afternoon for several of IndyCar's traditional leading lights.

Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will start his title defence from eighth on the grid after finishing up just behind Andretti team-mate Marco Andretti.

Dario Franchitti, Ganassi, St Petersburg 2013Ganassi's best hope lies with Dario Franchitti in 10th after Scott Dixon failed to progress from the first qualifying phase.

Dixon's run was compromised by some track signage left in the middle of the circuit after James Jakes glanced the wall.

For many more drivers the challenge lay in getting the most out of the new red Firestones, which were used for the first time in qualifying, and which are substantially softer than last year's.

Sebastien Bourdais, meanwhile, fell foul of traffic on his fast lap and was forced to settle for 21st, leaving new team-mate Sebastian Saavedra to represent Dragon Racing toward the front of the grid by qualifying ahead of Franchitti in ninth.

Pos  Driver               Team/Car                   Time        Gap
 1.  Will Power           Penske Dallara-Chevy       1m01.2070s
 2.  Takuma Sato          Foyt Dallara-Honda         1m01.5776s  + 0.3706s
 3.  Simona de Silvestro  KV Dallara-Chevy           1m01.7670s  + 0.5600s
 4.  James Hinchcliffe    Andretti Dallara-Chevy     1m01.8229s  + 0.6159s
 5.  Helio Castroneves    Penske Dallara-Chevy       1m01.8991s  + 0.6921s
 6.  Tristan Vautier      Schmidt Dallara-Honda      1m02.0645s  + 0.8575s
 7.  Marco Andretti       Andretti Dallara-Chevy     1m01.6883s  Round 2
 8.  Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti Dallara-Chevy     1m01.7339s  Round 2
 9.  Sebastian Saavedra   Dragon Dallara-Chevy       1m01.7944s  Round 2
10.  Dario Franchitti     Ganassi Dallara-Honda      1m01.8150s  Round 2
11.  Tony Kanaan          KV Dallara-Chevy           1m01.9139s  Round 2
12.  Oriol Servia         Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy  1m02.1483s  Round 2
13.  Justin Wilson        Coyne Dallara-Honda        1m02.2177s  Group 1
14.  Charlie Kimball      Ganassi Dallara-Honda      1m02.1198s  Group 2
15.  Graham Rahal         Rahal Dallara-Honda        1m02.2709s  Group 1
16.  Josef Newgarden      Fisher Dallara-Honda       1m02.1592s  Group 2
17.  Alex Tagliani        Herta Dallara-Honda        1m02.3328s  Group 1
18.  James Jakes          Rahal Dallara-Honda        1m02.1658s  Group 2
19.  Simon Pagenaud       Schmidt Dallara-Honda      1m02.4736s  Group 1
20.  Scott Dixon          Ganassi Dallara-Honda      1m02.1715s  Group 2
21.  Sebastien Bourdais   Dragon Dallara-Chevy       1m02.6537s  Group 1
22.  EJ Viso              Andretti Dallara-Chevy     1m02.1986s  Group 2
23.  Ed Carpenter         Carpenter Dallara-Chevy    1m02.6634s  Group 1
24.  JR Hildebrand        Panther Dallara-Chevy      1m02.3179s  Group 2
25.  Ana Beatriz          Coyne Dallara-Honda        1m03.2551s  Group 2
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