Franchitti takes overnight pole in Vancouver

Friday Qualifying at Vancouver

Franchitti takes overnight pole in Vancouver

Dario Franchitti set the pace on the opening day of practice and qualifying in Vancouver. Franchitti beat Gil de Ferran by 0.164 of a second with Paul Tracy making it a Team Green 1-3 and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top four so that Team Penske finished the day second and fourth. It also meant that the Green and Penske teams swept the first four places as did the Reynard-Honda combination.

Franchitti and Tracy stated their case for Team Green by running 1-2 in the morning session and almost repeated the feat in the afternoon. Both drivers said they believed there was more speed to come in Saturday's final qualifying session.

"The car was great from the start of practice," Franchitti said. "We waited to make our run because we wanted to save our tyres. On the first set of tyres I didn't get as much out of the tyres as I could have.

"On the second set I ran into some traffic and again, didn't get the most out of the tyres, so - sorry to the others, but I think there's more to come... In fact, as far as I'm concerned, it can rain tomorrow!

"The car is quick enough to win. If we can finish we can be in a good spot."

Tracy is equally confident of going faster as the weekend unfolds. "I didn't run much this morning," Tracy said. "The track was slippery and I wanted to save the tyres. This afternoon the car felt good and I waited 'til the end.

"You can always get a little more out of it," he continued, "but I was held up by (Kenny) Brack when he brushed the wall just in front of me. So I think there's definite room for improvement tomorrow."

At this stage of the game only the Penske cars appear to have the speed to challenge to Green pair. On the track, the Green and Penske Reynard-Hondas look better than any other cars. The Green and Penske cars look more precise than any others and also are able to negotiate the bumpy Vancouver streets more smoothly than the rest of the field.

"We had a couple of small problems this morning," de Ferran said. "But from there we made steady progress. My car was very good in qualifying. I didn't have a perfect run on my first set of tyres. Adrian (Fernandez) got in my way and slowed me down a little. I need to improve a little to get my friend here (Franchitti)."

Fifth fastest behind Castroneves was Jimmy Vasser who enjoyed one of his most competitive days in many weeks. Vasser ran with the first or 'slow' qualifying group and by qualifying so well he will move tomorrow into the 'fast' qualifying group. This means he should enjoy better track conditions tomorrow and could challenge even more strongly.

"I think we have a really good race car," Vasser said. "I think we can still get more out of the car and the strategy is to get the car working all the way around the track. On street circuits the track gets better and better as you run and by moving into the 'fast' group tomorrow I think we've got a good chance to show what we can do."

Friday's top 10 were completed by Christian Fittipaldi, Roberto Moreno, Michael Andretti, and Mercedes runners Tony Kanaan and Mauricio Gugelmin. Championship leader Andretti said he believes he could have gone considerably faster had he completed his fastest lap of the day.

"I had a qucker lap going that probably would have been fourth quickest but I didn't complete the lap because they thought I'd get the chequered flag before I made it," Andretti said. "I didn't get the most out of the car, that's for sure. The car is OK, but it's not like Dario's or Gil's right now. We have to keep working."

Last year's champion and Vancouver winner Juan Montoya was sixth this morning and finished the day in 11th, almost one second slower than pacesetter Franchitti.

"Although this afternoon is not exactly where we want to be, I still think we have a pretty good car and a good set-up," Montoya said. "I just hope it doesn't rain tomorrow because if the weather is good the track will definitely be faster. On this track it's difficult to pass. Not impossible, but difficult, so where you start is important."

The weather forecast for the rest of the weekend in Vancouver is for cool and cloudy conditions and cool temperatures. Occasional rainshowers are expected throughout the weekend although there's no forecast for heavy or steady rain.

Final qualifying takes place on Saturday.

For the provisional Starting Grid from Vancouver, click HERE.

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