SURFERS PARADISE, Australia -- Sebastien Bourdais moved
closer to his first Champ Car title by guaranteeing himself a
front-row starting spot for the Lexmark Indy 300 in the opening
qualifying session Friday.
Bourdais now needs to accumulate seven points more than
Newman/Haas teammate Bruno Junqueira to win the title. Bourdais
picked up a point by posting the fastest time on the 2.795-mile
temporary street course.
His fast lap guaranteed Bourdais will start no worse than second
regardless of his of time in Saturday's final qualifying session.
His time Friday was 1 minute, 34.439 seconds, just over a tenth
of a second faster than 1995 race winner Paul Tracy. Third in
qualifying for Sunday's race was 2002 Australian winner Mario
"It's a step in the right direction,'' Bourdais said. "The
track is going to get faster and faster, so having that front row
guaranteed is important.''
Bourdais took his Cosworth-powered Lola around the course at
106.545 mph. Tracy's speed 106.412, and Dominguez went 106.363.
Junqueira posted only the 16th-best lap.
"We had a problem with a sensor and didn't get many laps in,''
Junqueira said. "It's a shame because we need to be closer to the
front if we're going to challenge.''
Tracy said he was unlucky not to edge ahead of Bourdais.
"The car feels good, but we didn't seem to have any luck
today,'' Tracy said, frustrated that he had become blocked behind
several drivers during the session. "It'll be quicker tomorrow.''
Bourdais won the pole here last year and finished 17th in the
Last year's winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was the fastest through
the first 15 minutes of qualifying, But that came before most of
the leading drivers went out on the course.
Patrick Carpentier hit the wall with three minutes left, forcing
a red flag and ending the qualifying session early.
Two drivers making their Champ Car debuts had mixed results.
Australian David Besnard, a former Formula 2000 champion, was 13th
but led the qualifiers for a short time. Jarek Janis of the Czech
Republic was 17th of 19 cars.
Besnard and Janis will join four other rookies -- A.J.
Allmendinger, Nelson Philippe, Justin Wilson and Guy Smith -- in
Champ Car officials said the "push-to-pass'' turbocharger
allotment would increase from 60 seconds to 75. It's the fourth
time this year -- all on tracks with long straightaways such as the
Surfers Paradise layout -- the allotment has been upped.
The "push-to-pass'' button gives each driver extra horsepower
in an attempt to pass. The 75 seconds is in total and the button
can be used for varying amounts of time during the race.