Gordon Kirby's Cleveland qualifying analysis

Championship leader Roberto Moreno showed that he is ready to make a serious run at the Champ Car crown by taking the first CART pole of his career in Cleveland on Saturday. Moreno's best previous qualifying performance in a Champ Car was at home in Brazil in 1997, and his best this year prior to this weekend was third in Portland last week.

Gordon Kirby's Cleveland qualifying analysis

Over the years, Moreno has spent four years in Formula 1 and six in CART, but has never had a regular full-time ride with a top team until this year with Patrick Racing. At 41, the Brazilian veteran has finally discarded his 'supersub' moniker and has moved to the top of the point standings with a series of solidly consistent performances, a competitive runner in almost every race.

"I'd like to thank everybody who has stood behind me and supported me through my career," Moreno intoned after taking the pole in Cleveland. "I believe 1988 was the last time I had a pole in F3000 when everybody was fighting for thousandths of a second, just like today."

Moreno turned his pole-winning lap with about five minutes to go in the final session. A lap later he spun, bringing out a red flag.

"The computer showed I had a better lap going," Moreno said. "Halfway through the lap I was two-tenths faster, but I tried just a bit too much and spun."

The final five minutes gave everyone else a chance to beat Moreno, but the only man able to improve was Gil de Ferran, who jumped from tenth to second. Portland winner de Ferran has been very competitive all weekend, but was unable to get a clear lap on both sets of tyres in the final qualifying session. De Ferran didn't get an unobstructed lap until the closing minutes, after the red flag for Moreno's spin.

"I simply couldn't get a clear lap," de Ferran said. "It's just the breaks of the game, but it's very frustrating. When the red came on I hadn't done a time and I had more than 10 laps on the tyres. After you've stopped and cooled them off, the tyres are never as good. It was a tough one because I knew I was nowhere, so I could not make a mistake. I was a little tense and a bit adventurous at the last chicane, but I picked up a little time there."

De Ferran was just under a tenth of a second shy of Moreno's hot lap with four more drivers following within another tenth! Champ Car racing is so competitive in fact, that the top ten qualifiers were covered by less than three-tenths of a second and the fastest sixteen by less than one second.

An impressive third fastest was Mauricio Gugelmin, who produced by far his best qualifying run of the season so far. Gugelmin's best previous qualifying run this year was seventh in Japan, but helped by a special Mercedes-Benz qualifying engine he was able to challenge for the pole in Cleveland. Gugelmin beat Michael Andretti, Cristiano da Matta and Juan Montoya, so there were four different engines in the top five: Ford-Honda-Mercedes-Ford-Toyota.

Gugelmin said he would have gone a little quicker on his last lap only to run out of fuel. "I was the last car not to get the chequered flag," Gugelmin said. "I was going for it and we were looking good on the computer for a quick lap, but I ran out of fuel coming into the last chicane."

Nevertheless, Gugelmin completed a Brazilian sweep of the top three, the first time in Champ Car history that's happened. This follows on the heels of the first Brazilian one-two-three sweep in a race at Portland last weekend.

Da Matta and Montoya flew Toyota's flag by qualifying fifth and sixth. This is also da Matta's best qualifying performance in CART and comes after a very strong race in Portland last week. Montoya, meanwhile, has struggled most of the weekend in Cleveland, but appears to have found the right combination for the race.

"The car is much better," Montoya said. "With the changes we made today, it now feels like a race car. We've got a strong car for tomorrow."

The top 10 were completed by Bryan Herta, Dario Franchitti, Adrian Fernandez and Helio Castroneves. Herta is filling in for the injured Tony Kanaan in Mo Nunn's car and did a great job, qualifying seventh, only a third of a second away from pole. Franchitti fell from fastest on Friday to eighth today and complained that his car was unstable on the bumps which predominate at Cleveland.

Cleveland qualifying: It's that man Moreno!

Previous article

Cleveland qualifying: It's that man Moreno!

Next article

Nunn confirms Zanardi test and race chance

Nunn confirms Zanardi test and race chance
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Plus

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

May 8, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Plus

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be

Apr 21, 2021
The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan Plus

The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan

Having had the door to F1 slammed in his face and come within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500, the collapse of a Peugeot LMP1 shot meant Japan was Bertrand Baguette's last chance of a career. But it's one which he has grasped with both hands

Feb 27, 2021
The female all-rounder who arrived "too early" Plus

The female all-rounder who arrived "too early"

From Formula 3 to truck racing, Dakar and EuroNASCAR via a winning stint in the DTM, there's not much Ellen Lohr hasn't seen in a stellar racing career that highlights the merit in being a generalist. But she believes her career came too early...

Feb 17, 2021
How Radical's latest machines fare on track Plus

How Radical's latest machines fare on track

The lightweight sportscar manufacturer has not rewritten the rulebook with its latest machines, but the new SR3 XX and SR10 still provide a step forward on its previous successful models

Feb 8, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Plus

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them

Jan 31, 2021
How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory Plus

How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory

The New Zealand Grand Prix's mix of rising talent and big-name stars thrilled the crowds (yes, remember crowds?) assembled for the Toyota Racing Series meeting at Hampton Downs last weekend and left distant observers craving a repeat

Jan 26, 2021
How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going Plus

How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going

OPINION: The 67th edition of the Macau Grand Prix might have been a largely muted affair to the outside world without its international influx and star line-ups, another victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organisers deserve huge credit for keeping the party going

Nov 24, 2020