Qualifying: Junqueira takes dominant pole

Bruno Junqueira was in a class of his own on Friday in provisional Champ Car qualifying at Road America. The Brazilian was three-quarters of a second faster than the rest of the field, which was led by his Newman/Haas Racing team-mate Sebastien Bourdais. Newman/Haas has achieved eight wins and five poles here at the circuit the team considers its home track

Qualifying: Junqueira takes dominant pole

Friday's battle for second place was a good one, with six drivers separated by barely two tenths of a second. But they were all outclassed by Junqueira, who views the Elkhart Lake race as the key round in the CART championship.

"I think whoever wins this race is going to win the championship," Junqueira remarked on Thursday, long before the action began.

The Brazilian needs a victory for a number of reasons, not the least of which to redress the balance within the Newman/Haas team, where rookie Bourdais has outscored him three-nil so far in 2003. But a win would also send a message to Tracy, who is 19 points ahead in the standings with seven races to go after Junqueira earned a championship point for his Friday effort.

On Friday, Junqueira lapped the 4.048-mile Elkhart Lake road course in 1m43.917s, for an average speed of 140.235 mph. Bourdais' best effort was a 1m44.722s, just 0.003s faster than Tracy's 1m44.725s and 0.013s up on Adrian Fernandez' lap of 1m44.735s. Patrick Carpentier on 1m44.814s was the last driver to break the 1m45s barrier.

"The car has been good all day, though the balance was better and the lap time was faster when we tested here a few weeks ago," said Junqueira. "On the first set of tyres, I put a good lap in, a 44.1. I thought that was the best I could do, but on the second set I went 0.2s faster.

"But eight tenths here is only four tenths anywhere else because this track is so long," he added. "I'm feeling very confident. Let's see how the track is tomorrow and see if we can keep this advantage."

Bourdais improved dramatically on his final lap to round off the Newman/Haas one-two.

"I ran the warm-up practice on old tyres and the track had changed a lot from the morning," remarked the Frenchman. "When we put new tyres on, it upset the balance and that steered me in the wrong direction for the second set."

Tracy also noted the unusual track conditions.

"When we tested here, the track was very green in terms of not having much rubber down," he said. "Now there is a lot of rubber down, but it's from club racing and we wound up with a lot of understeer, particularly in the fast corners. I had to back out of the throttle in the Carousel and for the Bridge turn and that cost me a lot."

Darren Manning won the Reynard class, clocking a 1m45.098s to run sixth fastest on the day. That was 0.022s better than Jimmy Vasser.

Only seventeen of the nineteen drivers posted qualifying laps. Alex Tagliani sat out after a heavy crash at Turn 14 right at the end of the pre-qualifying warm-up, and the furious French-Canadian claimed that the accident was precipitated by rookies Tiago Monteiro and Mario Haberfeld braking too early for the pit entrance. Roberto Moreno also failed to log a qualifying lap.

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