MONTEREY, Calif. (June 13, 2003) – Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has been a factor in nearly every qualifying session and race day along the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford trail, but had yet to lead a qualifying session despite the fact that he had earned three podium finishes and stood third in the championship points after six races.
Junqueira took care of that little oversight on a picture-perfect California Friday afternoon and did it in dramatic fashion as he flashed past starter J.D. Wilbur on his last lap of the day to complete a frenzied game of last-minute leapfrog, taking the top spot in the first day of qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Junqueira was the last of a trio of drivers that each posted the best time of the day within five seconds of each other as they followed each other around the 2.238-mile road course on their last qualifying laps. Junqueira was the last of the trio to cross the line as the checkered flag fell, but vaulted to the top of the chart in doing so, posting a lap of 1:10.040 (115.031 mph). The morning practice leader, Junqueira would earn a championship point for leading the Friday session, pulling himself into a tie for second in the season point standings.
“The car wasn't very good on the first outing of the session. I got a little bit of traffic that made it hard to get a good lap,” Junqueira said. “Then for the second set of tires, we did a good change, and I have to thank TZ (Team Manager John Tzouanakis) that called me on the radio to find the gap and get my chance to put one lap.”
The day’s top lap dropped a pair of Player’s/Forsythe Racing machines down a notch, but both Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would content themselves with spots in the top three.
Carpentier holds the second spot after the first day of qualifying after navigating the tricky road course in 1:10.314 (114.583 mph), a lap that was good enough for the pole for about two seconds before Junqueira followed him directly across the start/finish line.
“I looked at my display and saw that it was a pretty good lap, but since my crew didn’t say anything right away, I figured either the guy ahead of me (Tracy) or the guy behind me (Junqueira) was faster,” Carpentier said. “It was one of those deals where you celebrate for about two seconds.”
Tracy led for much of the latter half of the session, and seemed to have caught a break when the twin entries of American Spirit Team Johansson both spun independent of each other in Turn One. The red flag brought out by the stalled cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) halted the session with less than 10 minutes to go. When the green flag waved with less than five minutes remaining in the session, the majority of the field all rolled out of the pits at once, creating a scenario that appeared to make it difficult for a driver to find the space needed for a flying lap for the pole.
But the veteran Tracy and the others would find the space they needed despite the tough conditions with Tracy putting up a best lap of 1:10.341 (114.539 mph) to lead the fast trio across the line, but would end his day in third after being passed in rapid-fire fashion by Carpentier and then Junqueira.
“I guess I should have held back a little longer,” Tracy grinned. “We were all trying to create a gap for ourselves and people were holding back a little to find a way to get a good lap. I think this is a tough track to do really well on and we could see a lot of changes tomorrow and on race day.”
A pair of rookies would round out the top five as Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) snared the fourth spot with a best lap of 1:10.701 (113.956 mph), while Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing’s Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) came home as the fastest Reynard with a time of 1:10.753 (113.872 mph), a time that he put up in the first 10 minutes of the 40-minute session.
A trio of Mexican drivers was next on the speed sheets as Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), series points leader Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished sixth, seventh and eight respectively, with Vasser and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounding out the top 10.
There will be another CART Champ Car qualifying session on Saturday that will set the final grid, with the 40-minute session beginning at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time – a session that can be seen on SPEED Channel starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
- After finishing second in Friday qualifying, Patrick Carpentier is in line for his first-ever front-row starting spot at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In his five previous visits, Carpentier has qualified no higher than sixth.
- In his first run of the season with the CART Champ Cars, two-time Laguna Seca winner Bryan Herta was 11th in Friday qualifying with a best time of 1:11.297 (113.003 mph) in the #27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone.
- In his first run of the year with Dale Coyne Racing, Geoff Boss (#11 Cross Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 18th on the grid with a best time of 1:13.975 (108.912 mph)
- Tiago Monteiro did not participate in Friday’s qualifying session after he had contact with his #7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone in the 10-minute practice session that preceded the qualifying. The team elected to work on the primary car for tomorrow’s final qualifying instead of bringing out its backup car.
CART CHAMP CAR FRIDAY QUOTEBOARD
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I feel really good. On the first six races, like all five of them I've been second place in qualifying in one of the sessions. It feels really good. I think the PacifiCare, Newman/Haas Racing team did a great job. We had a very good winter test. On my first outing, on my fourth time lap, I just laid down a very good lap. The car was really good. But we made some changes trying to improve a little bit for qualifying. But I think the track went the wrong way, opposite of what you expect, and the car wasn't very good on the first outing. I got a little bit of traffic. Then for the second set of tires, we did a good change, and I have to thank the guy that called me on the radio to find the gap and get my chance to put one lap. I knew there was that.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It’s not bad but second means nothing today. I had first place for just a moment and that would have meant a secured position on the front row. Team Player’s made some changes for this afternoon’s qualifying and we will do more for tomorrow because the car is stiff and pushing too much in some corners but overall we do have a good car.”
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We were quickest before the red flag came on as time went by, I could see that there would barely be enough time to improve. For a while, I was hoping we would not have enough time being in first place. But, when we got out, I was caught in traffic and even though I was able to improve my times, it was not good enough.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The car was a lot better this afternoon. Unfortunately, either Michel [Jourdain] came upon traffic or something, because I lost three-tenths [behind him] that could have put me in third or fourth. That was my fastest lap but we had traffic. We improved the car a lot for qualifying. We are closer to the front and really our time was faster than it showed. It’s a better race car and that’s the main thing. We just need to improve our position tomorrow.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Despite the fact that we qualified in the top ten, we still feel that there's a lot more we can get out of the car. We'll need to really think through what changes we are going to make for tomorrow's qualifying. I'm sure we'll get there but we have a long way to go to get the car really working the way we want for the race on Sunday.”
JIMMY VASSER (#12 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “Ryan spun in front of me, I was coming out of the pits on new tires I knew there were a few guys behind me on their fliers so I pulled down low into turn two and the engine just stalled on me. This is the third time I had the stall so we are going to have to look into that. I can’t believe that happened, next time I might not be so courteous because it bit me. Also on my first set of tires the pressures never came up, the second set was perfect, I am happy with the car, I think we have a real good baseline to work with.”
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team did not have the best qualifying session of the year today. The track was very different from what we expected when we came here, so we spent most of the day catching up. The bad news is we are 10th on the provisional grid. The good news is the Visteon/Patrick Racing car is not very good, so it means we have room to improve and move up the grid. And, the most important thing is we have a very good idea of how to make the car for tomorrow’s final qualifying.”
BRYAN HERTA (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We haven’t found the right balance yet, but it feels good to get a few laps under my belt –I certainly feel better! We will make some changes overnight, keep digging, and see where we are tomorrow.”
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Basically, it was very difficult to get in the proper position on track for a flyer during the last few laps due to traffic. I'd be just ready to launch and then I'd have to back off. It all came down to one lap at the end. The car was so much better after the last change we made and I was up quite a bit during the early part of the last lap. But I was being too greedy in trying to get more out of it and on the next corner I put two wheels out on the dirt which slowed me down in that corner and the next one too. But the car was so good that I was still able to make up all that lost time before the end of the lap and it was my best one! So on one hand, I'm quite disappointed because the car is much better than the lap time shows. For sure I could have gone 3/10th of a second faster - maybe more. But I'm also quite happy because I know we just touched some things to give me the speed we need to go even faster.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The conditions here at Laguna Seca are great and this should be a good weekend. Right now we are not satisfied with the speed that we're getting from the # 33 Johnson Controls Lola. We tested here at Laguna in early January and had better results than today so we're going to sit down and reconfigure the car. We need to go back and look at the data we have and start the basics again. We'll get it right for tomorrow and the race, but it's going to be a long afternoon!”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#31 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “It was a rough session. We are playing catch up in the first session this morning, I had a problem with the brake pads then after they changed them, we had a crack in the fuel pump so I ended up missing the entire second session which was really unfortunate. This afternoon I w as still having some problems with the rears locking up because of the brake pad issue. I just need to re-group and get a better result tomorrow.”