Qualifying 2: Monteiro sets pace

CART championship leader Paul Tracy retained pole position for Sunday's Mexico City Champ Car race on the basis of his Friday qualifying lap. But the Canadian charger will be joined by a new face on the front row for Sunday's 70-lap contest.

Qualifying 2: Monteiro sets pace

Tiago Monteiro, driving for Emerson Fittipaldi's first-year operation, stunned the regular front-runners by turning the fastest lap in Saturday's final qualifying session. Monteiro's 1m29.042s lap was exactly two-tenths of a second slower than Tracy's Friday pole lap and third in the combined results from the two days, but based on CART's convoluted qualifying rules the Portuguese rookie earned the outside front row spot and a championship point. His best prior qualifying effort came at Denver where he started fifth on the grid.

Bruno Junqueira couldn't come within 0.3s of Monteiro on Saturday, so despite having the second best lap when the sessions were combined, the Brazilian will start third alongside his Newman/Haas Racing team-mate Sebastien Bourdais.

It marked only the second time in 2003 that a Reynard chassis qualified on the front row of the grid. Ryan Hunter-Reay started second and went on to finish third at Mid-Ohio in August. The Reynards worked well Saturday in Mexico, with Hunter-Reay, Darren Manning and Jimmy Vasser set to line up fifth, sixth and seventh for Sunday's race.

"Obviously this was amazing," said Monteiro, who has been a regular in the top 10 throughout the Mexico City weekend. "We've been working so hard and the team deserves it. We had good pace since the beginning of the weekend and we had a good, stable car, though it wasn't perfect. I made a little mistake in the last two corners, but it was still a good lap."

Tracy was about a half a second slower than he ran on Friday. "The grip just wasn't there," he reported. "I didn't feel I could match the time I set yesterday and nobody was coming close, so we stopped a few minutes early and just watched Bruno."

Junqueira remains 14 points behind Tracy in the standings and rued a missed opportunity. "It wasn't the best qualifying today," he admitted. "I lost my first set of tyres to the red flag [for Rodolfo Lavin's spin] and I lost half a second behind Jimmy Vasser on my second set. The car was good but I missed an opportunity to get a point."

It wasn't the best of days for the six-deep Mexican contingent. Michel Jourdain in eighth place was the top local driver, followed by rookie Luis Diaz, who turned in an impressive performance in a one-off run in a third Derrick Walker Reynard to qualify tenth.

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