Qualifying 1: Da Matta saves best 'til last

Friday's Champ Car qualifying session at Road America saw the top spot change hands 10 times but produced a familiar result as Cristiano da Matta took top honours on his final lap. The CART championship leader set the standard with a 1m42.640s (141.980 mph) lap in his Newman/Haas Lola-Toyota to edge Bruno Junqueira (1m42.744s) and Dario Franchitti (1m42.990s).

Qualifying 1: Da Matta saves best 'til last

Alex Tagliani set the early pace before Junqueira was the first driver to dip into the 1m42s bracket, with 17 minutes left in the 60-minute session. Da Matta responded with a 1m43.156s before both drivers pitted prior to their final runs.

"I saw Bruno's time (1m42.884s) after his first run and thought we might be in trouble, because I dropped a wheel off the track on my best lap," da Matta remarked. "But we made some changes and improved the car a lot. I didn't do myself any favours by screwing up Turn 2, but I made it up over the rest of the lap. I pushed a lot harder on my first run, but the lap time was a lot better on the second run."

Junqueira found another tenth on his final lap of the session, but da Matta was still on track to post the quickest time of the session.

"It's a little frustrating because the team gave me a good car and I think I could have gone faster," Junqueira said. "We took some fuel out of the car and I think if I had another lap I would be on the pole. But the difference between Cristiano and me is very small."

Franchitti was pleased with his position after suffering a setback between sessions.

"We thought we had a good car in the morning practice, but when we put the car on the set-up pad we found some discrepancies," he said. "So the first run in qualifying was just to see where the car was at. On my best lap there was a bunch of dust on the track in the kink after Canada Corner and I was lucky to keep the thing on the road. But we know we have a little work to do to catch the guys up front tomorrow."

Adrian Fernandez had another good session to run fourth in his Lola-Honda to lead Scott Dixon and Tagliani. But morning pacesetter Kenny Brack struggle, finishing 13th on 1m44.103s.

Also struggling was Team Rahal, which placed Jimmy Vasser 14th and Michel Jourdain Jr. 16th. And Tony Kanaan failed to complete a flying lap in his spare car after a scary morning practice crash when his rear wing failed on the pit straight.

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