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Tracy Holds On to Denver Pole

Paul Tracy will start the Champ Car Grand Prix of Denver from pole position after withstanding a stern challenge from Sebastien Bourdais in final qualifying

The Frenchman set the pace by a commanding 0.58s margin in free practice this morning, but once again had to give best to his Forsythe Championship Racing rival in this afternoon's decisive 35-minute session.

Tracy - out for every point he can get to chip away at Bourdais' Championship lead - wasted no time in getting down to business and set what turned out to be the pole-winning time after just five minutes.

Champ Car qualifying sessions typically split into two distinct flurries of activity as the drivers attempt to string together a pair of runs on two sets of Bridgestone tyres. But their second runs were thwarted by an untimely red-flag stoppage after Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into the tyre barrier at Turn Five with a couple of minutes left on the clock.

That left Tracy sitting pretty, and the Canadian duly notched up his third pole of the season, trimming Bourdais' advantage in the overall standings to 26 points.

The Newman/Haas driver did succeed in elevating himself to the front row at the expense of the second Forsythe entry of Mario Dominguez - the only order change from yesterday among the top five places.

Dominguez was close behind in third and was disappointed to lose a front-row berth after getting sideways in the penultimate corner on his fastest lap.

The RuSPORT duo of AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson remained closely matched in fourth and fifth respectively.

Allmendinger opted to run out-of-sequence with most of the other runners, seeking a clear track to make his mark. The ploy might have paid dividends had the balance of his #10 Western Union Lola been up to the task, but the young American found himself battling turn-in understeer and snap oversteer and wound up half a second adrift of Tracy's pole time.

Next up were two drivers who made major improvements on their provisional qualifying positions: Jimmy Vasser vaulted from 13th to sixth in the leading PKV Racing entry, and Alex Tagliani jumped from 11th to seventh for Team Australia.

The French-Canadian will chalk up the 100th start of his Champ Car career when he takes the green flag in tomorrow's race.

He will be flanked on the fourth row of the grid by Oriol Servia, who has been struggling all weekend to arrive at a suitable set-up and finished more than three-quarters of a second adrift of Newman/Haas teammate Bourdais.

Cristiano da Matta was ninth fastest in the second PKV machine ahead of Rocketsports Racing's Timo Glock, who once again topped the rookie class - albeit narrowly from Andrew Ranger, who finally made significant headway after a difficult weekend so far.

Ricardo Sperafico qualified 12th for Dale Coyne Racing, but might have done considerably better had his car not coasted to a stop a little more than halfway into the session. The same fate befell teammate Ronnie Bremer, who will start a disappointed 16th.

Meanwhile at the sharp end of the field, a battle royal between perennial sparring partners Tracy and Bourdais is in prospect heading into tomorrow's race. If either of them can emulate Bourdais' barnstorming 2004 performance, it will be well worth watching...

Pos  Driver              Team                   Best Time        Laps
 1.  Paul Tracy          Forsythe Championship    59.432          28
 2.  Sebastien Bourdais  Newman Haas              59.541 + 0.109  28
 3.  Mario Dominguez     Forsythe Championship    59.644 + 0.212  30
 4.  A.J. Allmendinger   RuSPORT                  59.938 + 0.506  25
 5.  Justin Wilson       RuSPORT                  59.962 + 0.530  29
 6.  Jimmy Vasser        PKV                      59.995 + 0.563  27
 7.  Alex Tagliani       Team Australia         1:00.156 + 0.724  22
 8.  Oriol Servia        Newman Haas            1:00.331 + 0.899  27
 9.  Cristiano da Matta  PKV                    1:00.493 + 1.061  27
10.  Timo Glock          Rocketsports           1:00.529 + 1.097  30
11.  Andrew Ranger       Mi-Jack Conquest       1:00.704 + 1.272  29
12.  Ricardo Sperafico   Dale Coyne             1:00.732 + 1.300  29
13.  Rodolfo Lavin       HVM, Inc.              1:00.766 + 1.334  26
14.  Bjorn Wirdheim      HVM, Inc.              1:00.863 + 1.431  28
15.  Nelson Philippe     Mi-Jack Conquest       1:00.915 + 1.483  28
16.  Ronnie Bremer       Dale Coyne             1:01.093 + 1.661  25
17.  Ryan Hunter-Reay    Rocketsports           1:01.342 + 1.910  29
18.  Marcus Marshall     Team Australia         1:02.064 + 2.632  22

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