Bourdais snatches pole

Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy struck up an unlikely friendship from the start of the 2003 season and Saturday at Surfers Paradise, the young Frenchman did his Canadian buddy a favour by snatching pole position for the penultimate round of the CART championship from his Newman/Haas team-mate Bruno Junqueira

Bourdais snatches pole

The newly crowned Rookie of the Year waited out traffic and ran his best lap during his first qualifying run. He was unable to improve during the second runs, but then neither did anyone else. Championship contenders Junqueira and Tracy qualified second and third for a race that Bruno needs to win.

The 40-minute session was held in glorious conditions and it was quickly obvious that Junqueira's provisional pole time of 1m32.708s would not hold up. Tracy was the first to do it, clocking a 1m32.366s at the halfway point.

Now at the end of the first runs, times began to tumble. Tracy improved to a 1m32.080s, and Junqueira ran a 1m32.463 on a lap when he had to slow because Patrick Carpentier spun in front of him.

Junqueira finally got a clear lap and ran a 1m31.994 to grab P1 again. His joy lasted about 20 seconds until Bourdais bested it with a 1m31.716, the lap that ultimately held up for the pole.

The sun continued to drench the 2.795-mile street circuit and track temperatures were at their peak toward the end of the session. Adding to that, no one seemed to be able to get a clear lap, though Tracy improved to 1m32s dead on his last lap.

"It could have been catastrophic because I could never get a lap on the first set of tyres," Bourdais said after winning his fifth pole of the season. He also set a CART record for rookies with his 12th consecutive top-six qualifying effort.

"I brushed the wall during my 31.7s lap but it was good enough for the pole," Bourdais added. "All the chicanes here are really fast and you have to kick ass to do a quick lap."

Bourdais said he won't object if he is asked to make way for Junqueira to win Sunday's race. "The best way for me to help Bruno is to be at the front and in the fight," he remarked.

Junqueira was frustrated by the traffic and thought his Newman/Haas Lola was good enough to win the pole. "I thought I would do it, no problem," he related. "Unfortunately on the second set of tires, I was behind Rodolfo Lavin and he was about four seconds off the pace and I kept catching him."

Tracy, conversely, was delighted after cutting the margin to the pole from 1.4 to 0.3 seconds while jumping from fifth to third.

"We made a big improvement and I attacked the curbs a lot more today," said the championship leader. "I came out of the last chicane about 12 mph faster than I did yesterday so you can see where I was making the time. Sebastien taking the pole is great. If we couldn't take it, at least Bruno didn't."

Alex Tagliani rebounded from his Friday disqualification to qualify fourth, while Adrian Fernandez and Oriol Servia filled the third row ahead of Herdez Competition teammates Roberto Moreno and Mario Dominguez.

Junqueira's provisional pole
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Junqueira's provisional pole

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