Da Matta on Provisional Pole

Cristiano da Matta continued his recent renaissance by taking provisional pole position for the Champ Car Cleveland Grand Prix on Friday

Da Matta on Provisional Pole

The 31-year-old Brazilian, who scored PKV Racing's maiden win last week in Portland, was quick all day long and fired off a perfectly-timed salvo in the dying minutes of qualifying - just before a red flag ended the session prematurely.

After a slightly hesitant start to the second phase of his Champ Car career, da Matta really found his feet during the race at Portland and is now looking much more like the man who seemed to have a virtual stranglehold on the silverware in the summer of 2002.

"I am very happy with the way things are going," he said. "We made some really good changes on the team and we are progressing each weekend and getting better and better."

Today's result earns da Matta a bonus Championship point and, just as important, a guaranteed front-row starting spot for Sunday's race. Although that might be regarded as merely a welcome luxury at somewhere as wide-open as Cleveland's temporary airfield course, in fact it gives him the best chance of avoiding the traditional first corner pile-up - an occupational hazard at this race.

Paul Tracy set the pace in the morning practice session but came up an infinitesimal 0.004s short in qualifying. The Canadian looked like the man to beat until he clipped an errant tyre and broke his front wing on his penultimate lap.

Mario Dominguez backed up his Forsythe Championship Racing teammate in third, just ahead of reigning series Champion Sebastien Bourdais, whose previous two encounters with the Burke Lakefront Airport venue have yielded dominant victories.

As a measure of the intensity of the competition, the four fastest qualifiers were blanketed by just 0.140s and the top 12 by less than one second.

Alex Tagliani once again surpassed most people's expectations of what the newly-restructured Team Australia (formerly Walker Racing) should be achieving by posting the fifth best time. Jimmy Vasser confirmed PKV's pace with sixth, while Oriol Servia netted seventh in the second Newman/Haas Racing entry.

RuSPORT have not so far shown the pace that saw their drivers monopolise the front row at Portland, and Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger had to content themselves with eighth and ninth respectively.

Wilson spun in avoidance of a slower car and stalled in Turn Six with three minutes to spare, triggering the late red flag and forfeiting his fastest time. The penalty dropped him behind Servia in the overnight order.

Former Jordan Formula One driver Timo Glock headed the rookie contingent in tenth, albeit with Ronnie Bremer and Andrew Ranger hot on his heels in 12th and 13th.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Cristiano da Matta PKV 58.436 13 2. Paul Tracy Forsythe Championship 58.440 + 0.004 14 3. Mario Dominguez Forsythe Championship 58.546 + 0.110 14 4. Sebastien Bourdais Newman Haas 58.576 + 0.140 11 5. Alex Tagliani Team Australia 58.705 + 0.269 11 6. Jimmy Vasser PKV 58.835 + 0.399 12 7. Oriol Servia Newman Haas 58.920 + 0.484 14 8. Justin Wilson RuSPORT 58.986 + 0.550 11 9. A.J. Allmendinger RuSPORT 59.158 + 0.722 11 10. Timo Glock Rocketsports 59.346 + 0.910 13 11. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rocketsports 59.395 + 0.959 15 12. Ronnie Bremer HVM, Inc. 59.435 + 0.999 13 13. Andrew Ranger Mi-Jack Conquest 59.581 + 1.145 9 14. Nelson Philippe Mi-Jack Conquest 59.789 + 1.353 8 15. Tarso Marques Dale Coyne 59.819 + 1.383 15 16. Bjorn Wirdheim HVM, Inc. 59.970 + 1.534 13 17. Ricardo Sperafico Dale Coyne 1:00.390 + 1.954 14 18. Marcus Marshall Team Australia 1:01.135 + 2.699 12 
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