Tracy needs wins to get back in title battle
MONTREAL -- Sebastien Bourdais has figured out how to post a fast qualifying time on Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Now, all the reigning Champ Car champion needs to do is get a handle on the race.
For the second straight year, Bourdais won the pole for the Montreal Molson Indy, turning Saturday's final qualifying session into a one-man show on the 2.709-mile, 15-turn road course winding around Notre Dame Island.
His fastest lap was clocked at 1 minute, 20.396 seconds, a speed of 121.305 mph. Four of Bourdais' 13 laps would have been good enough for the pole, and a fifth would have put him second on Sunday's 18-car grid.
Oriol Servia struggled through most of the 35-minute session before finally uncorking a lap of 1:20.698 (120.851 mph), which was good enough to give Newman/Haas Racing the entire front row. Servia, who also trailed Bourdais on Friday in the race for the provisional pole, was the only driver who came close to his flying teammate Saturday.
Still, Bourdais wasn't totally satisfied.
"It was not perfect," Bourdais said, shrugging. "I made a mistake on every single lap and I brushed the wall on the first (fast) lap. I was probably a little too eager to go fast too early. I touched the curb in the chicane and that pushed the car wide. That was too close."
It was an impressive performance, though, for Bourdais -- who goes into Sunday's 79-lap event leading 2003 champion Paul Tracy by 55 points in the season standings and looking to extend a string of three straight victories. Tracy, who was third on Friday, slipped to fifth in the final round of time trials.
The only real problem for Bourdais is overcoming his short but disappointing history in Montreal.
As a rookie in 2003, he started sixth but had a mechanical failure and finished 19th. Last year, after easily taking the pole, he led 26 laps before then-rookie A.J. Allmendinger hit him from behind and relegated Bourdais to 15th.
Now, after winning his fourth pole of the season and the 17th of his brief Champ Car career, the 26-year-old Bourdais needs to find a way to get to the finish of Sunday's race.
"The race is a different thing," Bourdais said. "We just have to be smart, have a good first lap and take care of the car. It's a long race.
"I know our car was good enough last year for me to win," he added. "We'll see if it's good enough tomorrow. Hopefully, we won't have to deal with a wet track."
Rain was in the forecast for Saturday night and Sunday morning, but the forecast called for clearing skies at race time. The Champ Car drivers have not had to deal with racing on a wet track since a race in 2003 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
"Sebastien is obviously very quick," said Servia, who is filling in for the injured Bruno Junqueira. "But anything can happen during the race, especially if it rains."
Servia started the season with Dale Coyne Racing and had finishes of 11th and ninth before moving to Newman/Haas after Junqueira broke his back in a crash during the Indianapolis 500. Since then, he has six finishes of fourth or better, including a pair of seconds, in seven starts.
That has moved the Spaniard to third place in the standings, just 13 points behind Tracy. But Servia is still looking for his first Champ Car win.
"With five races to go, points are very important at this time and we don't want to do anything stupid," he said. "But, if I'm faster than Sebastien, I'll definitely try to find a way to get past him."
RuSport teammates Justin Wilson and Allmendinger were third and fourth on Saturday, but a long way behind Bourdais and Servia.
"Those guys are awfully quick, but we're just pleased to be competitive and to be up front again," Wilson said. "The key to this kind of racing is being able to adjust. It is a long race."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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