Junqueira's provisional pole

Bruno Junqueira said coming into Surfers Paradise that he must perform at his best in the last two races of the season to have any chance of beating Paul Tracy for the championship. The Brazilian took a small step toward that goal Friday by driving his Newman/Haas Lola to pole position on the Gold Coast street course with a lap more than half a second faster than Alex Tagliani.

Junqueira's provisional pole

Aside from the psychological advantage gained by pacing the first day, Junqueira guaranteed himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race and gained a point in the CART championship to move within 28 points of series leader Tracy. Michel Jourdain (44 points out) is no longer mathematically eligible to win the crown.

Tagliani ran a 1m33.265s lap to pace the first set of runs. He led Sebastien Bourdais (1m33.321s) and Junqueira (1m33.550s).

With 10 minutes remaining, most of the front runners headed out for their second runs, still under threatening skies.

"I was concerned about waiting until the end because of rain or a red flag, but you had to wait because the track conditions improved," Junqueira said. "I did a safe lap, a 1m33.1s, and then I tried really hard on my last lap."

The 1m32.708s flyer eclipsed Tagliani by 0.557s. The French-Canadian said he flat-spotted his second set of tyres and was unable to respond.

"I'm frustrated because the car was handling really well," he said. "I did a 33.7 and a 33.3 on tyres that were destroyed."

Bourdais was also forced to rely on his first run after experiencing a pop-off valve problem on his second set of tyres. "They had to reset it in the pits and it caused us to miss the best track time," he said. "Very frustrating."

Practice leader Adrian Fernandez was fourth fastest while Tracy was unhappy with his Forsythe Lola under braking and over the kerbs. "We're way off on the set-up," the Canadian said after turning a 1m34.161s lap that was good for fifth place. "We've been within a few hundredths of Bruno everywhere this year so seeing a gap of more than a second is unusual."

Junqueira knows he has to perform if he wants to snatch the championship from Tracy's grasp. Realistically, he needs two wins in two races.

"This is a really important weekend for me and today was a good day," he noted. "I hope I can get out of this weekend close enough to Tracy to have a shot to win the championship in Fontana. That's my goal."

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