Montoya and Franchitti tie for pole

Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti recorded identical times on Detroit's Belle Isle park circuit on Saturday afternoon with Montoya taking the pole thanks to his second fastest lap which was 0.003 of a second quicker than Franchitti's next best lap.

Montoya and Franchitti tie for pole

The pair renewed their rivalry which, ironically, saw them tie for the championship last year. Montoya won the tie-break then, too...

This is Montoya's fourth pole of the year and tomorrow's race will be the fourth race in a row he starts from the pole.

"This morning the car was really fast straight out of the box and I knew we had a chance at the pole," Montoya said. "I was a little worried because first of all I was held up by Michael (Andretti), then there was a red flag and I was surprised because drove around the track and there was nothing on the track, nothing there. I said, 'Thanks very much.'

"Then I went out again at the end and tried really hard," he added. "It was a good lap but not fast enough. I needed to go faster. So I tried again and I almost hit the wall, but it was alright because the time was good enough."

Montoya said that being smooth rather than outright aggression is the key to fastest laps at a rough, bumpy track like Detroit. "You've got to go as smooth as you can," he commented. "That's the fastest way. Sometimes when you give everything, you gain and you lose because it's so bumpy and you're sliding so much. It's very difficult to do it right."

Even though Franchitti set his fastest lap earlier than Montoya, the pole was awarded to the Colombian because of the next quickest lap. This was the first time in eight years, since Road America in August of 1992, that two drivers have tied for pole at a CART race. On that occasion it was Penske teammates Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Franchitti has been on the pace all weekend in Detroit following a very competitive test at Mid-Ohio the week before last. The Scotsman's challenge for pole was his most impressive performance of the year so far, equalling his starting position in Milwaukee two weeks ago.

"We didn't get any points today but you can't get any closer," Dario remarked. "This morning the car was not what's required to qualify at the front. I talked to my engineers and said this is what I need and they fixed it. I guess we just didn't push hard enough. You could think of a hundred places to gain time, but we didn't.

"To me, it's more luck than judgement," he added. "There are an infinite number of decisions you have to make about where you're going to brake and turn and accelerate."

Passing is almost impossible at Belle Isle and the race frequently is decided by pitstop strategy. Franchitti believes that will hold true this year as well.

"It's going to be difficult to pass," Dario said. "To pull out and pass you need to have a pretty big advantage. It will probably come down to fuel mileage and pit strategy."

This year's race has been extended by nine laps from 75 to 84 laps, although last year's race was flagged after 71 laps because of CART's two-hour time limit.

Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran qualified third and fourth. This equals Castroneves best qualifying run of the season so far at Nazareth.

"We're really working hard trying to find every single spot on the track where we can find some speed," Castroneves said. "My car was really good on my first set of tires but I picked up a lot of understeer on my second set. I was trying very hard to find the right way around the track but third is a very good starting position. Let's keep cool and get some points."

De Ferran was a little over a tenth of a second behind his teammate. "I've been fairly happy with the car all weekend," he said. "We had a bit of understeer which worked on the through the session and the last change we made was a definite gain. We're looking pretty good for tomorrow but we need to be there at the end and finish in the points."

Friday's provisional polesitter Max Papis slipped to fifth today. Papis said he was held up on his last lap by Roberto Moreno and believed that he could otherwise have qualified in the top three.

Cristiano da Mattas produced his best qualifying run of the year to date to qualify sixth ahead of Kenny Brack, Christian Fittipaldi, Patrick Carpentier and Moreno. Brack clipped the wall late in the session and folded his left front wheel back against his car's sidepod. Fittipaldi and teammate Michael Andretti who qualified 11th have been struggling all weekend. Both are hoping to make the finish on Sunday rather than race to win.

Also in trouble today were Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy who qualified 18th and 20th. Both have struggled to get their cars handling well and Tracy also isn't feeling well unable to keep his food down this morning.

Entirely out of luck today was Tony Kanaan who crashed early in the qualifying session. Kanaan clipped a wall with his right front wheel and shot across into the outside wall, hitting it hard and tearing off most of his car's leftside suspension. Kanaan had to be cut from the car and was f;own to a nearby Detroit hospital suffering from a compound fracture to his left forearm, two fractured left ribs and a mild concussion. Kanaan will be operated on tomorrow and could be released on Monday. He is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks.

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