Wilson Takes Maiden Pole

Justin Wilson held onto the fastest time to secure his maiden Champ Car pole position at Portland on Saturday, as well as the first for the second-year RuSPORT team

Wilson Takes Maiden Pole

The 26-year-old Briton worked hard to better his Friday time of 57.597 seconds (122.756 mph), but the warmer Saturday weather prevented Wilson and many of the other top drivers from improving on their provisional qualifying times.

Teammate AJ Allmendinger ensured a perfect result for RuSPORT by retaining the outside front row starting berth.

"Obviously it feels very good to finally get the first pole and show what this team can do," said a delighted Wilson. "We are very happy to be 1-2. I think it also shows what we have been working towards. Each weekend we just get more confidence and are able to go quicker.

"I'm very excited and looking forward to the race tomorrow. I just want to get a good start obviously and try to get to the first corner first, then see how the race unfolds. It's going to be a very long race (206 miles, 105 laps), slightly longer than last year. Some strategy is going to come into play. You can't make any mistakes. What is going to be quite important is a lot of patience."

Allmendinger overcame a difficult morning practice session in which he had struggled for grip, and was visibly having to work harder at the wheel than Wilson to achieve comparable times.

The Californian revealed: "The team overall did a great job. We have been struggling a bit all weekend with the set-up of the car even though we have been quick. During practice we were at the worst we've been all weekend but the team did a fantastic job figuring it out. Today the car was at its best in qualifying."

Paul Tracy also relied on his Friday time for third on the grid in the leading Forsythe Championship Racing entry. An ignition problem caused his Ford-Cosworth engine to cut in and out in the morning practice session and then again during qualifying. Since the ECU units were replaced each time, apparently to no avail, the team will change engines for the race.

Tracy was unhappy that his flying lap was negated and was especially unhappy at wasting a set of softer 'alternate' tyres that could have been saved for the race - but he is upbeat about his prospects despite never having won a Portland Champ Car race in his long career.

"The car was pretty good but the track was slower today," he related. "There wasn't much we could do. The cloud cover we kept hoping for showed up just after the checkered flag unfortunately.

"We're in a good spot for the start tomorrow and the car is good on long runs. So I'm optimistic for the race."

Tracy will share the second row with fellow countryman Alex Tagliani, a situation that is certain to generate some fireworks at the start since both are emphatically not members of each other's fan club. Tracy is still sore about last year's Portland race, in which a lapped Tagliani held him up for several laps and prevented him from chasing down the Newman/Haas teammates for the win.

Sebastien Bourdais, who has 15 Champ Car poles to his credit in a little over two years, finds himself starting an uncharacteristic fifth. After boost problems hindered his efforts on Friday, Bourdais' Newman/Haas teammate Oriol Servia was one of the few drivers to improve his time in Saturday's warmer conditions and qualified an understeer-afflicted 12th.

Mario Dominguez bounced back from a crash at the end of morning practice to qualify sixth in the second Forsythe machine.

Spanning the spectrum of age and experience in the series, the fourth row consists of rookie Andrew Ranger, 18, driving for the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team, and the oldest driver in the series, 39-year-old veteran Jimmy Vasser.

Danish rookie Ronnie Bremer captured ninth on the grid despite crashing and bringing the session to a premature end. Bremer's frontal crash caused severe chest pain from the force of the impact against his seat belts, but precautionary hospital X-rays were negative and he has been cleared to drive.

Vasser's PKV teammate, Formula One refugee Cristiano da Matta, rounds out the top 10.

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Author Mary Bignotti Mendez
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