MILWAUKEE (May 30, 2003) – The first-ever nighttime CART Champ Car qualifying session scheduled for Friday night at the Milwaukee Mile fell prey to a Wisconsin summer storm as rains blew in and cancelled the single-car qualifying session for the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage.
The rains brought a premature end to the day but the clouds did provide a ray of sunshine for the rookie Rocketsports Racing squad as Alex Tagliani (#33 Rocketsports Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) inherited the pole for Saturday night’s Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford event.
Tagliani earned his fourth career Champ Car pole by virtue of having the quickest practice time of the day, turning a top lap of 20.882 seconds (177.914 mph) in the Friday afternoon practice at the 1.032-mile oval. The pole is the first for the Paul Gentilozzi-owned Rocketsports squad and the first for Tagliani since he paced qualifying at Fontana during the 2001 season. However, while Tagliani does take the pole, he does not get the championship point awarded for the top starter since the qualifying run did not take place.
“The winds were fluctuating a lot out there and I think we may have been lucky to catch a lap with no wind,” Tagliani said. “But we made a good run and it was very important to us to do well here because it is one of the major headquarters for Johnson Controls and the team was really excited to do well for them here in Milwaukee.”
Champ Car and Milwaukee Mile officials made a valiant effort to dry the track after an hour’s worth of hard rain that began during the CART Toyota Atlantic qualifying session, but after more than an hour of circling the track with jet dryers and other safety trucks, Champ Car Race Control called an official end to the proceedings at 9:10 p.m. Central Time.
Tagliani shaved nearly a half-second off of his practice time from Thursday night to vault to the top of the charts, eclipsing the time set by Thursday pacesetter Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Jourdain’s Thursday-leading time of 21.040 seconds (176.578 mph) would be good enough to hold up for a second-place starting spot, putting the Team Rahal driver on the front row for the second time this season. This will be the best oval-track starting spot for Jourdain in his eight-year career, eclipsing a previous best of third from Nazareth in 2001.
“Alex's time was really, really strong,” Jourdain said. “I don't know if anyone was going to be able to beat him, but obviously we were going to try, we were going to make some changes from yesterday for tonight. Hopefully we could improve. In the end, I am really happy starting in the front row, and see what will go tomorrow, it will be a long race.”
Jourdain’s front-row starting spot breaks a Canadian logjam at the top of the grid as the Player’s/Forsythe Racing duo of Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill the second row. Tracy’s time of 21.075 seconds (176.285 mph) would secure him the third spot and mark the fifth time in the year’s six races that the series co-leader has started in the top three and the first time since last year’s Milwaukee event that Tracy has started an oval-track race in the top three.
“I was giving it everything I had in the practice today trying to catch Alex but I brushed the wall,” Tracy said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to run this evening but I think we have a good car for the race. The key is going to be keeping the handling good all night and as the temperature changes throughout the night you are going to be having to adjust all the time.
Carpentier would match his season-best starting spot with his fourth-place position while last year’s polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top five with his Thursday run of 21.155 seconds (175.618 mph). Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent with a Thursday time of 21.212 seconds (175.146 mph) as eight of the top 10 drivers on Saturday night’s starting grid would earns their spots by virtue of Thursday night times.
Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start seventh with series co-leader Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) starting on the outside of row four. Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will be the top rookie on the starting grid after posting a time of 21.282 seconds (174.570mph) to establish a new career-best starting spot while his teammate Mario Haberfeld (#34 Financial Times Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) improved on his Thursday night time to vault into the top 10 on the grid.
The Champ Cars will have a 30-minute warmup session on Saturday beginning at 4 p.m., with the 250-lap Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage taking place at 8 p.m. Central Time, with live coverage on SPEED Channel.
- Alex Tagliani’s pole position is his first since Fontana in 2001 and is his best oval-track starting position since he qualified second last year at Chicago Motor Speedway.
- Michel Jourdain’s second-place starting spot is his best on an oval, bettering a pair of third-place starting positions, one of them coming this year at EuroSpeedway Lausitz.
CART CHAMP CAR FRIDAY QUOTEBOARD
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It's great, this race here is a place where Johnson Controls has the biggest headquarters, 500 people here and it was the best race to do it, so everybody was pretty excited and I am starting to work really well with the engineers on the team and we can see it that it's going pretty good, but even though you have one of those days that everything goes good, you know, we're still the kind of team that we really have to continue to work really hard to be able to compete like that all the time and be consistent in this competitive series. So it is good and I am pretty sure that they would have been nice to have a shot at the pole tonight in qualifying, but you know, I am probably the only guy that's really happy that it rained because you never know when it gets cold and the temperature changes, nothing is for sure, so we start on the front row and we have a good shot for tomorrow.”
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Today, we didn't want to make too many laps. We felt yesterday night we did a long run and some new tires on too. We thought the track changes so much from the wind -- it was really windy this afternoon and with the weather there was so much temperature change on the track, we knew the car was going to be really different so we didn't want to change the car much for the conditions the track was in. Still, I mean, Alex's time was really, really strong. I don't know if anyone was going to be able to beat him, but obviously we were going to try, we were going to make some changes from yesterday for tonight. Hopefully we could improve. In the end, I am really happy starting in the front row, and see what will go tomorrow, it will be a long race.”
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I think everybody is disappointed. I mean ultimately we would like to be out there on the track tonight and qualify for the fans and a lot of fans were hanging around and waiting. I am sure that we could have gone well tonight, so it's disappointing because we wanted to put on a good show for the fans and Mother Nature didn't allow us to.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Well, the track record is still mine. No, seriously, we would have been happier on the front row but we are pleased with what Team Player’s has done with the car over the course of the weekend. During the last practice run, we did some testing and Team Player’s made some changes to the car so that we can run high or low on the track. So we have a good car for the race. We will be able to pass backmarkers during the race but it will be more difficult with the leaders. Even if it gets colder for the race, we will be able to adjust the tire pressure and the aero balance on the car to make it more stable. It should be a spectacular race.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The car wasn’t as good today with the high winds but at the same time I think we have a better car for the night. I think we are in good shape. We just need to make the car a bit more stable for the race. Obviously the race will be a completely different experience for everybody. I think we have a good plan and I feel good starting fifth.”
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It is a little disappointing not to be able to qualify tonight. We tried a lot of things in this afternoon’s practice and toward the end of the session we were headed in the right direction. I was looking forward to qualifying the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing car under the lights and had confidence that we would do well. But, there is nothing you can do about the weather.”
DARREN MANNING (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “It’s a shame we couldn’t put in a qualifying run because I know there was more speed in the car. We had it handling really well at the end of the practice session this afternoon, but I didn’t get the most out of the car due to traffic. We could have easily posted another top-ten start, so it’s disappointing. Starting 11th puts us almost half a lap down from the start on such a short track so I’m going to have to work hard tomorrow. Pit stops will be vital to us since overtaking will be quite difficult.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It's very unfortunate for us that qualifying was cancelled due to the rain. I really think we had a car that was capable of a top-six start so we were really looking forward to qualifying. The car still isn't perfect but we have a chance to make a few changes during the warm up tomorrow afternoon. After that, we'll just have to work hard during the race to move up. I think it will be quite difficult because from what we've seen during practice, it is still very hard to pass here. But it's a long race and we'll be focused on making sure we finish the best we can.”
RODOLFO LAVIN (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “The Corona car was good in the first five or six laps of a run, so I definitely think we could have benefited from qualifying. We could have maybe have picked up a few positions there because I don’t think that others could go as fast as quickly as I was able to. The race is very long – 250 laps – so we have to do good pit stops and we’ll try to claim positions as much as we can.”
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It would have been nice to have qualified tonight for sure. The car was very good last night in the cool air and we expected to be quick tonight too. We played a lot with the car this afternoon; we actually went a bit the wrong way and made the car slower in the warmth of the daytime. I was very enthusiastic about the set up we had last night for the race car and we'll go back to that for tomorrow.”