SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS UPENDS FORSYTHE DUO WITH LAST-LAP SURPRISE TO LEAD FIRST DAY OF CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING IN CLEVELAND
CLEVELAND (June 23, 2006) - Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had a great seat to watch a slugfest between Forsythe Championship Racing drivers Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), but when the dust had settled, it was Bourdais that stepped up to throw the battle-ending blow.
Portland racewinner Allmendinger and defending Cleveland champion Tracy swapped the first-day pole five times in a furious qualifying session at Burke Lakefront Airport today, but instead of locking up the front row, the Forsythe duo ended their day looking up at the two-time defending series champ. Bourdais blistered the 2.106-mile circuit in 56.851 seconds (133.359 mph) on his 15th and final lap of the day to lead the first round of qualifying.
Bourdais earned himself a front-row starting spot by leading today's qualifying, and earned his 163rd championship point of the year, widening his gap to 31 markers over RuSPORT's Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The Flying Frenchman put his best time on the board after the checkered flag had flown on today's session, knocking Tracy off the pole after the Canadian superstar had used his alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to put up a top time of 57.011 seconds (132.985 mph). Despite holding the pole when the checkered flag waved, Tracy ended up third as not only did Bourdais take the point on his last lap, Allmendinger checked in with a best effort of 56.965 seconds (133.092 mph) to snare the second spot.
The Forsythe drivers were the stars of the show in the early going as Tracy knocked Wilson off the pole just 14 minutes into the 35-minute session. Allmendinger dropped Tracy back to second on his next pass, then took a half-second advantage on his next lap. Tracy stormed back three laps later to retake the lead, only to have Allmendinger leapfrog him again on his next time past the flagstand.
Undaunted, Tracy swatted Allmendinger aside on his next lap, taking the lead as both drivers headed down Pit Lane for new tires. Both Forsythe drivers went to the red-walled Bridgestone alternate tires on their second stints in hopes of gaining more speed while Bourdais elected to stay on the regular Bridgestone Potenzas.
The strategy appeared to pay off as Tracy set an even-quicker time on the reds while Allmendinger put up two quick laps that were just behind the polesitter as Bourdais slotted into the third spot. But as mentioned above, Tracy's lead did not last as the final laps for each driver flashed by.
Wilson ended up fourth with a top time of 57.312 seconds (132.286 mph), putting him one position ahead of last week's polesitter Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing-HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued his recent run of strong performances with a sixth-place finish, stopping the clocks at 57.779 seconds (131.217 mph).
His time was .003 seconds quicker than that of seventh-place Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), while the Team Australia duo of Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the eighth and ninth positions respectively. Power was the top-finishing rookie on the day, ending his session two positions ahead of Jan Heylen (#11 Muermans Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who logged in at 11th.
The final grid for Sunday's 105-lap 25th anniversary Champ Car Grand Prix Presented by U.S. Bank will be set by Saturday's final qualifying session, which takes place from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.