Qualifying 2: Seb seals pole

Formula 3000 champion Sebastien Bourdais has shown outstanding form in pre-season testing and the 23-year old Frenchman continued to demonstrate that ability in practice and qualifying for this weekend's Champ Car season-opening Grand Prix of St Petersburg.

Qualifying 2: Seb seals pole

Rookie Bourdais has been the man to the beat all weekend and took the pole for the season-opener, beating Champ Car veterans Paul Tracy, Adrian Fernandez and Patrick Carpentier by more than half a second. This puts Bourdais in good company as he became the first rookie to take pole for his Champ Car debut since Nigel Mansell back in 1993 and the first rookie since Bruno Junqueira at Nazareth in 2001 to be in pole for a Champ car race.

Bourdais drives a Lola-Ford/Cosworth for Newman/Haas Racing and says he has benefited from the team's ability and experience. "I feel really good," Bourdais said. "The car has been great all through the weekend. I haven't had a problem since the start of Friday practice and the car has been really consistent through all the runs we've done so that's very promising for the race."

Bourdais said he hopes to follow in Mansell's footsteps and become the first rookie to win the championship since the Englishman. "I feel very proud and hope that this kind of performance can continue. Nigel went on to win the championship and hopefully, the same thing can happen for me," the Frenchman remarked.

Tracy recovered from a troubled Friday to challenge for the pole on Saturday. Tracy said he believed he could have gone a little quicker had it not been for five red flags during the final qualifying session. "My biggest problem was the amount of reds," Tracy said. "It seemed like any time I was on a good lap the red came out. I'm not the best of qualifiers. It takes me two or three laps to build up to speed. I can't just go out and do it in one lap. But we were able to rebound today. We borrowed some of (team-mate) Pat's set-up and got the car much more comfortable than yesterday."

Tracy also struggled early in the weekend because his race engineer Kelly Loewen quit the team without warning just before the weekend began. "That dropped us into a little bit of a hole because we arrived here and we didn't have the set-up from the engineer to put on the car. Our chief engineer Tony Cicale has been filling the gap and we are talking to some people about the rest of the year. We have some good options. I'm sure we'll have a very good engineer onboard in the next week or two."

Fernandez has been competitive all weekend and was relieved to run so well after suffering two late-season injuries last year. "I had to two biggest accidents of my life last year," Fernandez observed. "I couldn't do any go-karting or anything 'til the end of January and I'm still not 100 percent there. So were pretty happy to have things go so well so far this weekend."

Tracy's team-mate Patrick Carpentier qualified fourth, followed by Michel Jourdain and rookie Mario Haberfield. Championship favourite Junqueira had a couple of spins and wound up seventh ahead of Jimmy Vasser, Oriol Servia and Mario Dominguez. This year's much-touted level playing field was very much in evidence as eight different teams were represented in the top 10.

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Qualifying 1: Bourdais' provisional pole

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