Qualifying 1: Junqueira nabs pole

Bruno Junqueira boosted his championship hopes by taking provisional pole position in first qualifying for this weekend's Champ Car World Series race in Denver. With the session run in a single-car, one-lap format the Brazilian kept his cool under pressure and blitzed the track record on his way to pole and a bonus championship point

Qualifying 1: Junqueira nabs pole

Despite CART's efforts to eliminate controversy by mandating single-car qualifying here at Denver and at the Miami round in four weeks, the sanctioning body's remarkable record for inadvertently stoking animosity continued. As each car completed its penultimate qualifying lap, the next car was sent out to warm-up and speed up the overall process. But a spanner got thrown in the works when Mario Dominguez crashed on his final qualifying lap after Paul Tracy (the next scheduled qualifier) had already left the pits.

Tracy drove two laps before he had to pit to wait for Dominguez's car to be removed and the Turn 1 tyre wall rebuilt. He was unable to adjust his Forsythe Lola other than adding more fuel, and his qualifying effort a few laps later left the Canadian fourth on the grid, claiming that he had been robbed of a chance for the pole by CART.

"I guess you can't call it single car qualifying if there are two cars on the track at the same time," Tracy remarked. "The whole thing got messed up when Dominguez crashed and it's frustrating. I had to run the same tire pressure and at the end it was too high so the car did not have any grip. We worked hard in practice to learn when the tyres came in and having to run two extra laps screwed things up royally."

Junqueira had already qualified when Dominguez's crash occurred and he was simply waiting to see if his time held up for the pole. When Tracy's run was interrupted, Junqueira cried foul, believing that the Canadian had been handed an advantage.

"He did two laps and got extra heat into his tyres - that's unfair," Junqueira remarked. "Even three laps around this track isn't enough to get heat into the tyres. But it wasn't Paul's fault. Single car qualifying is a very good thing, especially here and at Miami. But you can never tell when a car is going to crash on the track."

Fernandez turned in his best qualifying performance since Portland, a race he won. Last year at Denver, he claimed the provisional pole before slipping to second in final qualifying and fourth in the race. His best lap Friday was a 1m01.583s.

"The car was good - actually too good too soon," he remarked. "I got the grip that I needed right out of the box and when I saw my time for the second lap, I knew it was a good one. I pushed too hard on the last lap and lost a few tenths, but it's nice to be towards the front."

Manning (third), Mario Haberfeld (fifth) and Tiago Monteiro (eighth) proved that there is still life in the Reynard chassis. "I really can't quantify why the Reynards are successful thus far here," Manning said. "We'll have to see tomorrow when everyone gets more laps and up to speed. We have been making leaps and gaining experience the last few races, especially in Mid-Ohio."

Mika Salo was 17th fastest in his first Champ Car qualifying session. "Today we are really learning," said the Finn. "I only had one day of testing before getting in the car here, so we are working to get it right for me. (Single-car qualifying) is the same for everybody; it's tough with just a few laps to get the tire temperatures up. But no complaints from me!"

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