Qualifying 1: Junqueira's overnight pole

Bruno Junqueira left it to the last minute to claim the provisional pole for the final Champ Car race of the year. The Brazilian was the only driver to break the 1m26s barrier at the revised Autodromo Hernandos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City to edge Dario Franchitti and Christian Fittipaldi for top honours.

Qualifying 1: Junqueira's overnight pole

After going quickest the 15-minute warm-up prior to qualifying itself, Franchitti drew first blood when it counted by hustling his Team Green Lola-Honda around in 1m26.747s, eclipsing the benchmark Junqueira set in the morning practice session by 0.4s. After a brief red flag caused by Michael Andretti's spin and stall, Junqueira jumped to the top of the screens with a 1m26.392s, closely followed by Fittipaldi on 1m26.579s.

With just under 11 of the 35 minutes remaining, Franchitti again moved to P1 after clocking a 1m26.147s. But the Scot's glory lasted less than two minutes until Fittipaldi responded with a 1m26.027s.

With six and a half minutes to go, local favourite Michel Jourdain blotted his copybook by spinning into the barrier at the last turn, deranging the rear wing of his Team Rahal Lola-Ford and bringing out another red flag. By the time the session restarted, there were just four minutes to go.

Fittipaldi looked to have secured the overnight pole, but Junqueira popped in a 1m25.941s on his last lap to knock his countryman out of the top spot. Fittipaldi wound up second and Franchitti third, with the top five rounded out by Jimmy Vasser (1m26.703s) and Tony Kanaan (1m26.719s).

Canadians Patrick Carpentier and Paul Tracy improved on their last laps to move up to sixth and seventh respectively, while Tora Takagi, Kenny Brack and CART champion Cristiano da Matta rounded out the top 10. Brack intended to qualify in his spare car, but it lost a Toyota engine in the warm-up, forcing him into his primary Lola-Toyota.

The Friday pole was important in that Junqueira secured another championship point in his battle for second in the CART standings with Patrick Carpentier and Franchitti. He now leads Carpentier by five points and Franchitti by 11.

"This is paradise compared to some tracks we race on," remarked Junqueira. "This is probably the second best track we race on after Elkhart Lake.

"Straight off the truck my car was really good," he added. "We made one small change for qualifying, but that was it. Actually, I feel lucky to have gotten the pole because the track was really wet in Turns 1 through 5 and I was 0.4s slower than my best lap. But my car was so good that I made it up in the last part of the lap."

It wasn't much of a day for the trio of Mexican drivers. Australia hero Mario Dominguez wound up best in 12th place, while Jourdain and CART debutant Luis Diaz were 16th and 17th ahead of German rookie Andre Lotterer.

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