Wilson on Provisional Portland Pole

Britain's Justin Wilson took the first provisional pole of his Champ Car career at Portland International Raceway on Friday, as the second-year RuSPORT team brushed aside series stalwarts Newman/Haas Racing

Wilson on Provisional Portland Pole

Wilson moved to the front in the first five minutes of qualifying, held under threatening skies which encouraged many drivers to go out at the very beginning of the 35-minute timed session.

Running the softer, 'alternate' tyre compound, Wilson snatched the pole for good with his 12th lap of 57.597 seconds, only previously topped on the time sheets briefly by his teammate AJ Allmendinger and Sebastien Bourdais.

"We were good here in the testing and it gave me the confidence to go out and attack the course," explained Wilson, whose #9 Lola had new sponsorship from Intel proudly displayed on his sidepods. "I didn't have any dry laps in the morning practice so we relied on our testing data here from after the Long Beach race.

"This is a great result for the RuSPORT team and for me, but there is still more work for us to do. I'm happy now but I am sure I will have some changes [to the car set-up] to offer when I think about it.

"This takes a bit of the pressure off for tomorrow but we still want to get as many points as we can."

Wilson is guaranteed a front-row start and earns a bonus championship point, bringing his total to 71, just six points behind reigning champion Bourdais. His only previous front-row start was at Cleveland last year where he was punted out in a first-corner melee.

Allmendinger fought hard for the second fastest time of 57.816 seconds, earned on his ninth trip around the 1.964-mile, 12-turn permanent road course.

Miffed that Wilson was quicker, Allmendinger said, "Normally I would be excited about second place but today I am a little disappointed.

"The car did something unexpected from when we tested here. When the track got a little bit wet we lost the car. I couldn't figure it out. I thought we would be better today. I just think that I had a little more and hopefully I can figure it out for tomorrow.

"The team doesn't tell me about Justin's set-up because I wouldn't understand it anyway! I have enough trouble just driving the car!

"The front row is great for the team and for our guys but we have to be realistic. We have more to accomplish this weekend. At least I can still beat Justin at miniature golf!"

Paul Tracy inherited third on the provisional grid after Bourdais was penalised for "interfering with a driver while not running at full pace" as he exited the pits heading into the first turn.

"We were caught out a little bit when we went out for the second stint on the 'reds' [soft alternate-compound Bridgestone Potenza tyres]," said Tracy, who twice cut the course through the newly paved-in Festival Curves, the notorious first turn chicane.

"The car was balanced during the first stint. But when we went out for our second stint it seemed like we suddenly had quite a bit of understeer. We wasted a set of red tyres because I just couldn't put a lap together."

Bourdais, after forfeiting his fastest lap which ranked him third (57.825 seconds), ended up fifth overall using his next fastest lap.

Although the flagman affirmed his actions, the officials did not enquire if he properly signalled that a car was approaching as Bourdais left the pits. Bourdais defended himself to officials, claiming he couldn't see a car in his mirrors when running close to the wall, but Tony Cotman, Champ Car's VP of Operations, insisted that it is ultimately the driver's responsibility to be aware of the presence of faster cars.

The driver on a flyer coming down the long front straight (an actual drag strip) was Wilson, who wasn't at all happy with Bourdais afterwards.

"The flagman at the exit of pit lane didn't signal that Wilson was coming and that was it," said Bourdais, pleading his case to Race Control to no avail. "I ended up losing my fastest lap and two positions. It's frustrating but we'll have to keep improving the car and try for the pole again tomorrow. We had a good car but not a perfect one."

Bruno Junqueira's replacement for the season, Oriol Servia, who finished third at the Milwaukee Mile in his first run for Newman-Haas, suffered a boost problem in the morning and an engine hesitation problem in qualifying and was restricted to an unrepresentative 13th place on the overnight grid.

Pos  Driver              Team                   Time
 1.  Justin Wilson       RuSPORT                57.597
 2.  A.J. Allmendinger   RuSPORT                57.816  + 0.219
 3.  Paul Tracy          Forsythe Championship  57.911  + 0.314
 4.  Alex Tagliani       Team Australia         57.956  + 0.359
 5.  Sebastien Bourdais  Newman Haas            57.989  + 0.392
 6.  Mario Dominguez     Forsythe Championship  58.093  + 0.496
 7.  Andrew Ranger       Mi-Jack Conquest       58.097  + 0.500
 8.  Jimmy Vasser        PKV                    58.134  + 0.537
 9.  Ronnie Bremer       HVM, Inc.              58.331  + 0.734
10.  Cristiano da Matta  PKV                    58.344  + 0.747
11.  Timo Glock          Rocketsports           58.407  + 0.810
12.  Bjorn Wirdheim      HVM, Inc.              58.759  + 1.162
13.  Oriol Servia        Newman Haas            58.828  + 1.231
14.  Ricardo Sperafico   Dale Coyne             58.894  + 1.297
15.  Michael Valiante    Dale Coyne             59.055  + 1.458
16.  Ryan Hunter-Reay    Rocketsports           59.140  + 1.543
17.  Marcus Marshall     Team Australia         59.362  + 1.765
18.  Nelson Philippe     Mi-Jack Conquest       No time
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