Junqueira takes pole in title race

Astoundingly, it rained at the Hungaroring! Less astoundingly, the wet stuff fell just before the first qualifying session for the Hungarian round of the International F3000 championship. And given the amount of weather disruption the series has faced this year, this should have come as absolutely no surprise at all, even given the usually clement weather at the track

Junqueira takes pole in title race

Mercifully, this did not introduce a huge element of uncertainty into the proceedings, but it must have had the title protagonists worried - Nicolas Minassian and Bruno Junqueira have arrived with two races to go and equal on points and countback. Predictably, both were desperate for a straight fight to the final flag.

It was Junqueira, the Brazilian racing for the WilliamsF1 backed Petrobras Jr squad who gave himself the best chance of taking a series lead into the final round when he took a hard fought pole from upstarts Justin Wilson and Fernando Alonso late in the session, while Minassian seemed to struggle on his way to fourth. Nevertheless, the Super Nova driver is far from out for the count.

Junqueira set the early running on a damp-but-drying track, but soon dropped down the order as Kevin McGarrity took a brief moment in the spotlight in his Nordic prepared car. The real star of qualifying however was Astromega's Fernando Alonso. The young Spaniard has displayed phenomenal speed at times during the season, and has built steadily throughout his rookie year. He looked easily capable of fighting for pole, despite never having seen the track before, and was in the running right until the end.

In both sessions he hit the top of the times, displacing Junqueira on both occasions. For a rookie to be fighting with a championship contender is no mean feat, and Alonso should be well pleased with his eventual third place. It could have been higher had the Spaniard's wild streak, often seen in his Formula Nissan days not reasserted itself and left him in the barriers with ten minutes to go.

Mark Webber kept his distant dreams of a championship title alive for part of the session, fighting amongst the top runners early on. As Minassian steadily dragged himself up from 22nd, to ninth, then fifth and an eventual fourth, Webber hovered around the top three before sliding down the order to an eventual 11th. It will now take a miracle for the Australian to win the title, as he needs to win both remaining races and have Minassian and Junqueira score no more than a point each.

Another early front runner who could not maintain his form was David Saelens who initially outpaced Super Nova team-mate Minassian, before winding up a disappointed 13th.

Meanwhile, Englishmen Darren Manning and Justin Wilson had their cars hooked up and set some impressive times. Rookie Manning jumped to fourth before being displaced by Wilson, who took provisional pole on his next lap. Junqueira had it all to do again, but proved equal to the task and set his fourth provisional pole time, by 0.3s over Wilson.

Junqueira's team-mate Jaime Melo crashed in the first session and failed to qualify.

There were mixed fortunes for the latest drivers to join the team switch merry-go-round. Soheil Ayari replaced Dino Morelli at WRT but spent most of qualifying on the grass and wound up only 21st fastest.

However, the Frenchman's replacement at Coloni, ex-Astromega driver Fabrice Walfisch, ran in the top six for much of the session before slipping to a still creditable ninth.



1 Bruno Junqueira Petrobras 1m27.531s
2 Justin Wilson Nordic 1m27.904s
3 Fernando Alonso Astromega 1m28.196s
4 Nicolas Minassian Super Nova 1m28.292s
5 Ricardo Mauricio Red Bull 1m28.301s
6 Enrique Bernoldi Red Bull 1m28.382s
7 Bas Leinders KJR 1m28.408s
8 Darren Manning Arden 1m28.472s
9 Fabrice Walfisch Coloni 1m28.498s
10 Tomas Enge McLaren 1m28.567s
11 Mark Webber European 1m28.620s
12 Marc Goossens Astromega 1m28.743s
13 David Saelens Super Nova 1m28.750s
14 Sebastian Bourdais Gauloises 1m28.782s
15 Fabrizio Gollin Coloni 1m28.991s
16 Franck Montagny DAMS 1m29.009s
17 Tomas Scheckter McLaren 1m29.023s
18 Christian Albers European 1m29.023s
19 Kevin McGarrity Nordic 1m29.045s
20 Mario Haberfeld Fortec 1m29.082s
21 Soheil Ayari WRT 1m29.139s
22 Jeffrey van Hooydonk KTR 1m29.165s
23 Andrea Piccini KJR 1m29.288s
24 Andre Couto Gauloises 1m29.610s
25 Kristian Kolby DAMS 1m29.692s
26 Ananda Mikola WRT 1m29.855s

Non-qualifiers:

27 Yves Olivier KTR 1m30.338s
28 Viktor Maslov Arden 1m30.805s
29 Andreas Scheld Fortec 1m30.966s
30 Jamie Melo Petrobras no time


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