Tracy Beats Penalty to Claim Pole

Paul Tracy overcame an off-course excursion and a penalty to claim pole position for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, his second of the season and the 24th of his career

Tracy Beats Penalty to Claim Pole

The Canadian took to the track early in the 35-minute session to avoid getting caught up in traffic, but the ploy went awry when he lost control over the bumps in the fast final chicane and performed a big spin along the start/finish straight.

That in itself wasn't too much of a problem, but as he rejoined he inadvertently impeded the progress of arch-rival Sebastien Bourdais, prompting officials to decree that his fastest time would be disallowed.

The penalty meant that Tracy needed to post two laps quicker than anyone else's in order to clinch pole - a mission he duly accomplished on his second run, vaulting to the top of the charts with a 57.404s lap at the 25-minute mark and backing it up with a 57.419s on his next flier.

That, together with a red flag that brought the session to a halt four and a half minutes early, assured Tracy of pole by a wafer-thin 0.005s from Friday pacesetter Cristiano da Matta.

"We had a good warm-up session on old tyres so we knew the car was going to be fast, but unfortunately I started the session off by spinning at the last corner as I launched a lap, breaking a wing and flat-spotting the tyres," related Tracy.

"Then while I was regrouping I got in Sebastien's way at Turn One. I didn't see him coming but balked him and that meant a penalty which cost me my quickest time of the session.

"So the mindset was for two fast laps since I was going to lose one. I'm really pleased we did that because I don't think anybody has ever had a fast-lap penalty and still grabbed the pole before."

Da Matta has been at the sharp end of the timesheets all weekend and, although naturally disappointed to have missed out on pole by such a narrow margin, was relieved to find that PKV Racing's Portland pace was not a flash in the pan.

"I'm very happy just to know that last weekend's race [which he won] wasn't just a spell," said the Brazilian. "I'm very happy to be up here again and that we're getting more consistent as a team."

Third on the grid went to Bourdais, who was the first to dip beneath da Matta's Friday benchmark just five minutes into today's session. The Frenchman was gearing himself up for another challenge when the final red flag came out, but admitted he probably cut things a bit fine before venturing out for his second run.

"We were a bit too optimistic and stayed in the pits for too long," he conceded.

French-Canadian hotshoe Andrew Ranger will line up a sensational fourth on the grid for MiJack Conquest Racing. The 18-year-old battled oversteer in the morning practice session but was a major factor throughout qualifying, easily emerging as top of the rookie class.

Fellow countryman Alex Tagliani was a strong fifth quickest for Team Australia, and will be flanked on the third row by Newman/Haas Racing's Oriol Servia, who performed one of his regular giant-killing acts at Cleveland last year to finish fourth for Dale Coyne Racing.

Now ensconced in one of Champ Car's plum seats, Servia has yet to make a big impression in qualifying but made rapid progress through the field at both Milwaukee and Portland.

Mario Dominguez was a disappointed seventh fastest in the sister Forsythe Championship Racing Lola to that of polesitter Tracy, complaining that his true speed was masked by the late red flag. Jimmy Vasser was eighth in the second PKV entry ahead of AJ Allmendinger, who was the cause of said red flag when he buried his RuSPORT Lola in the tyre barriers at Turn Eight with five minutes remaining.

Tarso Marques, the latest beneficiary of the musical chairs at Dale Coyne Racing, spun twice but did a Herculean job for the underfunded team to qualify tenth.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Paul Tracy Forsythe Championship 57.419 29 2. Cristiano da Matta PKV 57.424 + 0.005 26 3. Sebastien Bourdais Newman Haas 57.559 + 0.140 22 4. Andrew Ranger Mi-Jack Conquest 57.801 + 0.382 25 5. Alex Tagliani Team Australia 57.836 + 0.417 24 6. Oriol Servia Newman Haas 57.917 + 0.498 25 7. Mario Dominguez Forsythe Championship 57.942 + 0.523 24 8. Jimmy Vasser PKV 58.029 + 0.610 21 9. A.J. Allmendinger RuSPORT 58.126 + 0.707 23 10. Tarso Marques Dale Coyne 58.335 + 0.916 25 11. Timo Glock Rocketsports 58.385 + 0.966 22 12. Ronnie Bremer HVM, Inc. 58.471 + 1.052 24 13. Bjorn Wirdheim HVM, Inc. 58.493 + 1.074 25 14. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rocketsports 58.693 + 1.274 27 15. Nelson Philippe Mi-Jack Conquest 58.844 + 1.425 19 16. Justin Wilson RuSPORT 58.986 + 1.567 14 17. Ricardo Sperafico Dale Coyne 59.128 + 1.709 27 18. Marcus Marshall Team Australia 59.200 + 1.781 23 
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