Montoya takes home pole for Ganassi

Juan Montoya took his fifth pole of the season and added another valuable point to his championship tally at the Chicago Motor Speedway, just edging out Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan by the smallest of margins.

Montoya takes home pole for Ganassi

The 24-year old Colombian was 0.026 of a second quicker than Castroneves and 0.030 quicker than Kanaan as he broke last year's track record by more than half a second or five mph.

"My car was very good this morning and it just got better and better with ever change we made," Montoya said. "I knew I didn't have to do anything crazy and throw it over the edge. I think I had a bit more room to go faster. The car was just amazing. We founnd a lot of grip this morning and that really helps."

In fact Montoya didn't bother to take his second qualifying lap after taking the pole with his first flier. The extra point for the pole meant Montoya trimmed Michael Andretti's championship lead to 29 points. "We've definitely got to get some points to win this championship," Montoya commented. "We've got to get our act together. We've got to win some races and get some serious points."

Last year's inaugural race at the 1.029-mile Chicago Motor Speedway saw very little passing. There was just one, very narrow 'groove' but with more downforce this year because of CART's mandate that the Handford mk 2 wing be used on the short ovals, there's more grip and the possibility of a wider racing line.

"In traffic it'll be difficult," Montoya said. "But I think you'll see some overtaking. It's very difficult to go underneath the white line but you can do it. I tried it today in practice and it worked. I think the race is going to be good, better than last year.

"The 'groove' is a bit wider than last year because we're not sliding as much," he added. "With these wings there's a lot more downforce than last year you can carry more speed into the corner."

Castroneves and Kanaan were less sure than Montoya that there will be more room to race than last year. "This track gives you just one line," Castroneves said. "If you have a good car it's definitely a big advantage in traffic, but I think it's going to be really difficult to pass."

Detroit winner Castroneves said the Penske team made some big improvements to his car's handling today compared to Friday. "We did a long run this morning because we weren't happy with the car yesterday," Castroneves said. "The car was much better today. We found a good race set-up. This was a very good team effort and it's good to start up front here because the track is just one line."

Tony Kanaan was very impressive in qualifying third. Kanaan returned to action in Michigan last weekend after being sidelined for a month because of a broken left forearm and ribs incurred in an accident at Detroit in the middle of June. Kanaan's broken arm remains in a carbon fibre cast, but he showed his stuff with a great qualifying run. The Brazilian was the fastest Mercedes-powered qualifier by a long way, more than half a second and thirteen places better than the next Mercedes-engined car. Kanaan's performance was doubly impressive because he did not take part of last month's test in Chicago. "We took the most out of the car," Kanaan grinned. "I think that's the best car I ever had on an oval. Morris (Nunn) did just a great job. The car really handled well. Morris was a little concerned. He said, 'Take it easy. We need a top six.' I said, 'Hey Morris! If the car is good, we'll go for it.' And Morris was very happy with the time."

Kanaan agreed with Castroneves that passing will be difficult during Sunday's race. "It's not going to be easy to pass," Kanaan said. "In fact, I think it's going to be really difficult to pass."

Kanaan said his injured arm is not a problem on the Chicago oval although he's a little concerned about next month's two road races at Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake. "The only problem I have here is when I have to correct," Kanaan said. "So I said to Mo, 'Give me a car that I don't have to do that!'. It won't be a problem here but I have to prepare myself a little more for Mid-Ohio. My left hand has swelled-up, and Mid-Ohio will be much more physical work than here."

Kanaan says he has bought a go-kart and will spend as much time as possible driving it over the next few weeks. "I'm going to run it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week, then we're going to Sebring for a test. We're going to give Felipe Giaffone a run in the car. He's waited a long time for this and we want to give him some miles. My biggest worry is that the screws in the plate in my arm will come loose from all the effort and work required at Mid-Ohio, so we have to satisfy ourselves that will be OK."

Kenny Brack qualified fourth on Saturday followed by Cristiano da Matta, Max Papis, Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani, Jimmy Vasser and Gil de Ferran. Dario Franchitti qualified eleventh while championship leader Michael Andretti was fifteenth 0.553 of a second slower than Montoya. "We've struggled since we got here," Andretti said. "We found some things to make the car better today so we hope to keep working in that direction and get it sorted out before the race."

Andretti qualified poorly for last year's race in Chicago but quickly worked himelf into contention before crashing with Paul Tracy. "I think the wing we're running this year will make it harder to get to the front than last year. I wasn't in favour of this wing because I thought it would not make the racing as close as with the wing we ran last year. I guess we'll see if I was right tomorrow. The race is going to come down to pit strategy to improve track position. Good pit-stops and the overall timing of them will be all-important."

Andretti's team-mate Chrisitan Fittipaldi, sidelined by an accident on Friday which knocked him briefly unconscious, flew home to Miami today. Fittipaldi said he will definitely be back in action at the next Champ Car race at Mid-Ohio in two weeks.



1 Juan Montoya Ganassi Lola-Toyota 22.107s
2 Helio Castroneves Penske Reynard-Honda 22.133s
3 Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Reynard-Mercedes 22.137s
4 Kenny Brack Rahal Reynard-Ford 22.235s
5 Cristiano da Matta PPI Reynard-Toyota 22.280s
6 Max Papis Rahal Reynard-Ford 22.364s
7 Paul Tracy Green Reynard-Honda 22.394s
8 Alex Tagliani Forsythe Reynard-Ford 22.409s
9 Jimmy Vasser Ganassi Lola-Toyota 22.423s
10 Gil de Ferran Penske Reynard-Honda 22.437s
11 Dario Franchitti Green Reynard-Honda 22.468s
12 Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Reynard-Ford 22.481s
13 Roberto Moreno Patrick Reynard-Ford 22.574s
14 Oriol Servia PPI Reynard-Toyota 22.575s
15 Michael Andretti Newman-Haas Lola-Ford 22.660s
16 Mauricio Gugelmin PacWest Reynard-Mercedes 22.686s
17 Mark Blundell PacWest Reynard-Mercedes 22.718s
18 Michel Jourdain Jr Bettenhausen Lola-Mercedes 22.827s
19 Adrian Fernandez Patrick Reynard-Ford 22.866s
20 Memo Gidley Della Penna Reynard-Toyota 22.942s
21 Gualter Salles Coyne Lola-Ford 22.992s
22 Shinji Nakano Walker Reynard-Honda 23.159s
23 Tarso Marques Coyne Swift-Ford 23.344s
24 Luiz Garcia Jr Arciero PRG Reynard-Mercedes no time

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