Tagliani Buoyed by Team Progress

Alex Tagliani was celebrating his and Team Australia's best qualifying effort of the season after setting the third fastest time in the Friday session in Toronto

Tagliani Buoyed by Team Progress

The recently rebranded team (formerly Walker Racing) had cautious expectations going into 2005. Tagliani's deal was finalised relatively late in the close season after he was unexpectedly dropped by Rocketsports.

Australian investment allowed Derrick Walker's squad to finally purchase Lola chassis after several seasons of grappling with increasingly uncompetitive Reynards, but the team knew that their rivals had many more years of experience with the Lola B2K/00.

Qualifying in the provisional top three - beaten only by 2003 series champion Paul Tracy and defending title-holder Sebastien Bourdais - was far more than Walker or Tagliani could have hoped for at this stage.

"I'm very, very surprised," said Tagliani. "If you had asked me three months ago, I would have been a little bit cautious about saying we would be competitive.

"This is a fantastic result for us. Derrick has done a brilliant job in marshalling our boys together. We haven't all known each other for a long time, but the way the team is maturing is very impressive."

To achieve such a result on Friday was particularly impressive, reckoned Tagliani, because the team's lack of Lola mileage means that the first day of their race weekend is normally an exercise in data acquisition rather than set-up fine-tuning.

"For us, on the first day it's always (a case of) accumulating lots of data and trying to understand what we can do to go faster for the rest of the weekend," said the Canadian.

"We're always a little bit insecure on the first day. When we come here, we don't know if the set-up is going to work."

If Tagliani can maintain or improve his position in tomorrow's decisive second qualifying session, it will be the team's best starting position since Tora Takagi qualified third for Walker at Miami in 2002.

Tagliani believes that several seasons of frustration with the Reynards have only made the team more determined to succeed now that they have equal equipment.

"The guys have been working with Reynards in the past and they have not been competitive," he said. "Now that they have a car that can compete up the front, they're very motivated and you can see it.

"It's very nice to work in that type of atmosphere."

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Author Matt Beer
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