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First blood to Allmendinger

A.J. Allmendinger has taken provisional pole position for the Champ Car season finale in Mexico City

The young American traded fastest lap with several other drivers throughout an exciting 35-minute session before delivering the coup de grace with four minutes remaining.

Seconds later the red flag came out to retrieve the stalled Mi-Jack Conquest Racing car of Andrew Ranger (who had spun in the Esses), bringing the session to a premature conclusion and assuring Allmendinger of a bonus point and a guaranteed front-row grid spot.

The RuSPORT driver stopped the clocks in 1:27.349 on his final flier - an impressive six-tenths of a second clear of nearest rival Paul Tracy.

The Canadian, who won at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez en route to the 2003 championship, had topped both practice sessions leading up to qualifying and is determined to reverse the depressing trend of mistakes and misfortune that has derailed his 2005 title challenge.

Home hero Mario Dominguez had the crowd in raptures when he vaulted to the top of the charts after 26 minutes, but was eventually demoted to third ahead of the second RuSPORT entry of Justin Wilson. The Briton wasn't able to match teammate Allmendinger's pace all day and ended up 1.2 seconds adrift this afternoon.

Jimmy Vasser is set to bring down the curtain on his Champ Car driving career this weekend, if the paddock scuttlebutt is to believed - but he certainly didn't look like a man limbering up for retirement as he hurtled round in the fifth fastest time, more than a second clear of PKV teammate Cristiano da Matta.

Newman/Haas Racing found themselves relegated to a bit part in today's proceedings. Newly crowned Champion Sebastien Bourdais was a distant sixth fastest, pipping Oriol Servia by a microscopic two-thousandths of a second.

Bourdais only completed four of his 15 available laps, however, and had his fastest time disallowed as a mid-session red flag came out just before he crossed the start/finish line.

Ranger was a strong eighth quickest despite his faux pas at the end of the session, while Will Power was an excellent ninth in only his second Champ Car outing, upstaging Rookie of the Year Timo Glock (10th) and Team Australia stablemate Alex Tagliani (11th).

With the championship battle having been settled in favour of Bourdais and Servia a shoe-in for the runner-up spot, there is no convoluted arithmetic to interfere with this weekend's race.

But with an influx of talented young rookies - including sportscar racer Michael McDowell and Toyota Atlantic Champion Charles Zwolsman, who is making his debut for Team Australia - staking their claims to the few vacant top-flight seats for 2006, there is plenty riding on the outcome.

Pos  Driver               Team              Time              Laps
 1.  A.J. Allmendinger    RuSPORT           1:27.349            6
 2.  Paul Tracy           Forsythe          1:27.962 + 0.613    5
 3.  Mario Dominguez      Forsythe          1:28.314 + 0.965    7
 4.  Justin Wilson        RuSPORT           1:28.564 + 1.215    8
 5.  Jimmy Vasser         PKV               1:28.773 + 1.424    6
 6.  Sebastien Bourdais   Newman Haas       1:28.802 + 1.453    2
 7.  Oriol Servia         Newman Haas       1:28.804 + 1.455    5
 8.  Andrew Ranger        Mi-Jack Conquest  1:29.137 + 1.788   10
 9.  Will Power           Team Australia    1:29.445 + 2.096    6
10.  Timo Glock           Rocketsports      1:29.496 + 2.147    5
11.  Alex Tagliani        Team Australia    1:29.562 + 2.213    3
12.  Nelson Philippe      Mi-Jack Conquest  1:29.639 + 2.290    5
13.  Ricardo Sperafico    Dale Coyne        1:29.789 + 2.440    8
14.  Cristiano da Matta   PKV               1:29.804 + 2.455    9
15.  Rodolfo Lavin        HVM               1:29.851 + 2.502    3
16.  Michael McDowell     Rocketsports      1:30.349 + 3.000    4
17.  Ronnie Bremer        Dale Coyne        1:30.364 + 3.015   11
18.  Charles Zwolsman     Team Australia    1:30.719 + 3.370   10
19.  Homero Richards      HVM               1:31.329 + 3.980   12

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