Final qualifying: Junqueira still dominant

Bruno Junqueira maintained a clear margin over the rest of the Champ Car field in final qualifying for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America.

Final qualifying: Junqueira still dominant

Revelling in a track he loves, Junqueira cut a series of quick laps before finally setting the standard at 1m43.703s, a couple of tenths faster than he ran Friday in securing the provisional pole.

Junqueira's qualifying sweep moved him within 18 points of Champ Car series leader Paul Tracy after coming into the Elkhart Lake weekend 20 points behind the Canadian. Tracy qualified sixth for Sunday's 60-lap race, lapping in 1m44.519s.

Junqueira's closest adversary was again his Newman/Haas Racing team-mate Sebastien Bourdais. But the French rookie's best effort was a 1m44.242s, a full 0.539s slower than his stablemate.

The top ten was quite closely spaced when Junqueira was removed from the mix. Three-tenths of a second covered third through eighth on the grid, with Tracy's Player's/Forsythe Racing team-mate Patrick Carpentier and Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia locking up the second row. Mario Dominguez made a big improvement to nab fifth on the grid alongside Tracy.

Ten minutes remained in the session when the green flag flew following a stoppage for Darren Manning's spin at turn eight. At that point, Bourdais was fastest in the session on 1m44.305s. Once up to speed on his final run, Junqueira was again peerless, running a 1m43.726s before improving marginally to his pole winning time on his final tour. It was his first pole of the 2003 season and the sixth of his Champ Car career.

"It feels really good," he admitted. "This year we've been on the front row a lot of times and we've finished second. This is the track I like the most - I got my first win in CART here and hopefully I can get my first win for the Newman/Haas team here tomorrow."

Bourdais said he is more confident of challenging his team-mate in race conditions.

"We had two good runs, but unfortunately I made small mistakes on both of my flying laps. But we closed the gap to Bruno and we're pretty much there."

Carpentier said his Lola was much more stable in fast corners on Saturday, helping him improve two positions.

"The car was a lot better, but I caught backmarkers on my qualifying laps," Patrick reported. "I could attack the corners today, enter deeper and keep my speed up. This is a momentum track and yesterday we were really weak in the Carousel."

Servia and Dominguez were the big gainers on the day, moving up six spots on the grid. Those disappointed included Tracy and Mexicans Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain, who qualified ninth and tenth.

"It's disappointing when we are trying to gain ground on Paul and Bruno in the championship," remarked Jourdain. "Today we just didn't get the job done. I had a little brake problem and as a result, I flat-spotted a set of tyres. That didn't help our cause."

A very good afternoon's work for the often struggling American Spirit Team Johansson saw Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay top the Reynard league in seventh and eighth. Alex Tagliani, using Rocketsports' back-up Lola after his Friday accident, secured 13th on the grid.

Manning got back out after his spin, but he lost his fastest lap as a penalty for causing a red flag. That left him 14th on the grid, eight places lower than he qualified on Friday.





1 Bruno Junqueira Newman/Haas Lola-Ford 1m43.703s
2 Sebastien Bourdais Newman/Haas Lola-Ford 1m44.242s
3 Patrick Carpentier Player's/Forsythe Lola-Ford 1m44.306s
4 Oriol Servia Patrick Racing Lola-Ford 1m44.314s
5 Mario Dominguez Herdez Lola-Ford 1m44.378s
6 Paul Tracy Player's/Forsythe Lola-Ford 1m44.519s
7 Jimmy Vasser AS Team Johansson Reynard-Ford 1m44.545s
8 Ryan Hunter-Reay AS Team Johansson Reynard-Ford 1m44.551s
9 Adrian Fernandez Fernandez Racing Lola-Ford 1m44.620s
10 Michel Jourdain Jr Team Rahal Lola-Ford 1m44.752s

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Qualifying: Junqueira takes dominant pole
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