Bourdais nabs pole

In what is becoming a matter of routine, Sebastien Bourdais chalked up yet another pole position for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal. It marks the sixth time in ten races that the Frenchman has qualified on top, and increases his championship lead to a hefty 58 points over Newman/Haas team-mate Bruno Junqueira

Bourdais nabs pole

Bourdais was forced to dig deep by rookie AJ Allmendinger, who vaulted to the top of the charts with four minutes remaining in his RuSPORT Lola. But Bourdais was equal to the challenge, finding nearly 0.4s on his very last lap to reclaim the top spot.

"It was a much harder session today," he said. "I was taking it easy on the first run and on the second one I was getting frustrated because I kept running into the traffic and then I made a small mistake. I had to put everything together at the end."

The Frenchman had some trenchant views on the controversial operation of the timing sensor at the final chicane, which erased drivers' times if they crossed more than a rather arbitrary amount over the kerbs.

He said: "I think the new rule is ridiculous, but whatever... It makes life impossible for the guy that has a good car and can go over [the kerbs]. There is no line that tells you how far you can go. You know, you are driving the car as fast as you can and you don't know if you can use the kerb, and all of a sudden [the officials] call you for short-cutting the chicane - so you're like 'what?' So I hope tomorrow we're going to take this rule out because otherwise during the race you'll get called for every time you supposedly short-cut this thing - I will lose like ten laps..."

Reigning Toyota Atlantic champion Allmendinger has come on in leaps and bounds in recent races, and is beginning to shape up as a regular contender for podiums and potentially race wins.

"I'm really happy with today," said the Californian. "Every lap my car just kept getting better and better. It was great to have the pole for a while there, but Bourdais is just unstoppable right now. I'll take my first Champ Car front row starting position though.

"My game plan for the race is going to be to hang out, play with Sebastien a little bit, wait for his mistake with three laps to go and take the win... Just kidding. I'm really looking forward to having a good race with Bourdais. I respect him a lot and he's an excellent racer."

Mario Dominguez annexed third on the grid after trading the fastest time with Junqueira throughout the first half of the session. The Mexican was lying third towards the end of Friday qualifying when he spun his Herdez Competition Lola into the barriers, but kept it on the island this time around.

"Obviously we were trying to get the pole so I am not completely satisfied, but third is a very good place to start the race from," he said. "We have been fast everywhere this year; we have the speed, we just need to put it all together."

Junqueira set the pace in morning practice and had high hopes of stealing Bourdais' thunder, but ran out of fuel at the hairpin on his final lap and had to settle for fourth.

"We had some bad luck today," lamented Junqueira. "The telemetry showed that on my last lap I was half a second up when I ran out of fuel."

Of his fading title hopes, the Brazilian said, "It's just a matter of luck - if my luck turns around and we can start achieving what we are capable of, we can still do it."

Defending series champion Paul Tracy rounded out the top five after another torrid session. Yesterday the Canadian cracked a chassis and broke a gearbox bellhousing, while a light brush with the wall in final qualifying surprisingly caused enough damage to the engine to sideline him from the final 12 minutes.

He said: "My first set of tyres was good and we got a reasonable lap time which I knew I could improve on, but then I scuffed the wall with my right rear. The angle of the impact must have been unlucky because it caused the mounting on the engine to be damaged and we couldn't get it repaired in time to go out again. That's really frustrating because the car and the track were quicker today and I know we had a shot at the pole."

Forsythe Racing team-mate Patrick Carpentier rebounded from a disastrous Friday, when he failed to set a time following an engine failure in the pre-qualifying warmup, to line up alongside Tracy on the third row. Fellow Quebecois Alex Tagliani completed the trio of Canadians in seventh place, but was in a disgruntled mood after failing to find a clear lap and getting inadvertently baulked by the slowing Junqueira at the hairpin on his final flyer.

Next up was Conquest Racing's Justin Wilson. The Brit echoed the common refrain about traffic and ill-timed red flags but also was somewhat perplexed to find that he was slower on the softer "alternate" tyre than on the regular Bridgestone compound.

"I will have to review the data with my engineers to understand where we lost time," said Wilson, who for the first time this year is driving at a track of which he has prior experience, having competed in the 2003 Canadian Grand Prix for Minardi.

Ryan Hunter-Reay once again trailed his less highly-rated Herdez Competition team-mate Dominguez in ninth, having damaged his car in morning practice, while Dale Coyne Racing's Oriol Servia rounded out the top ten.

French teenager Nelson Philippe, who parted company with the Rocketsports team over a contractual dispute at Toronto and then returned to the Champ Car fray with Conquest Racing last time out in Denver, posted his best qualifying effort to date in 13th. The team has taken delivery of a Lola to replace its ageing Reynard with support from Philippe's sponsor Lease Plan, and the switch seems to have made a quantifiable difference to the youngster's confidence.

Philippe's replacement at Rocketsports, Yorkshireman Guy Smith, once again had to acquaint himself with an unfamiliar circuit and qualified 16th after having to sit out Friday's session due to a gearbox problem.

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