Qualifying: Tracy keeps pole position

On the surface, Paul Tracy didn't have to work hard to earn his first pole position of the 2003 Champ Car season. On Sunday at Brands Hatch, the 34-year old Canadian watched as his competition failed to beat his Saturday provisional pole lap of 37.006 seconds, guaranteeing him the top starting spot. He then cruised around and logged a couple of laps in the 43-second bracket while scrubbing tyres for Monday's 165-lap marathon

Qualifying: Tracy keeps pole position

Newman/Haas Rookie Sebastien Bourdais came closest to toppling Tracy, running a 37.044-second lap. But Bourdais ran wide exiting Paddock Hill bend on the last of his four qualifying laps and was unable to steal the pole from his rival. Bourdais did gain a championship point for his effort and leaped ahead of his team-mate Bruno Junqueira on the grid.

"I'm really happy to get the pole because it's been a long time since I had a pole," Tracy said. "It's a relief. I think the last pole I had was at the Michigan oval in 2000 and I can't even remember the last time I had a road course pole. I've been stuck on 13 poles for a long time so it's great to finally get off that number."

Remarkably, it's been almost nine years since Tracy was the fastest qualifier on a road course. The last time it happened was at Laguna Seca for the 1994 season finale - a race that Tracy went on to win from his Penske Racing team-mate Emerson Fittipaldi.

The CART championship leader was prepared to go out and lay down a flyer Sunday if he needed to. But Bourdais' last-lap off eliminated the need.

"When I heard the time that Sebastien did on his last warm-up lap I thought he was going to break into the 36s," Tracy stated. "But he got in trouble so we just went out and scrubbed tyres."

Track conditions were generally reckoned to be slower in Sunday's sun than they were in the cool conditions that prevailed on Saturday. Despite that, thirteen of the 19 drivers were able to improve their times. The notable exceptions were Tracy, Bruno Junqueira and local hero Darren Manning, who dropped from fifth to eighth on the grid.

"The track was much hotter today," Tracy said. "Track conditions were very good yesterday for going fast. With the knowledge teams gained about the track, I think we would have gotten down to the low 36s today if we'd have had yesterday's conditions."

Roberto Moreno was the day's big gainer, moving from 18th to 12th, while closer to the front of the grid, Alex Tagliani and Adrian Fernandez gained two places to qualify fifth and sixth behind Oriol Servia.

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