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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