HOUSTON -- Sebastien Bourdais won the provisional pole for
the Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Houston on Friday,
circling the 1.69-mile course in 58.376 seconds.
The defending champion hit 103.789 mph on his fastest lap in his
Panoz DP01 to clinch a front-row start Sunday and prove again that
his dismal season-opening weekend in Las Vegas was only a fluke.
Two weeks ago, Bourdais had three flat tires, then hit the wall
and finished 13th in what he called the worst performance he could
remember. He and the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team regrouped last week
in Long Beach, taking the pole and winning the race, Bourdais' 24th
"I was really super-proud of the way the team reacted to the
situation in Vegas," Bourdais said. "We could've completely
folded and broken down, but nobody did. We regrouped, stuck
together and that made for a good showing at Long Beach. That's all
The 28-year-old Bourdais also turned the fastest lap in
provisional qualifying in Houston last year, but his time was
disallowed when his Ford-Cosworth-powered Lola failed a technical
inspection. Bourdais started the race fifth, passed pole-sitter
Mario Dominguez on lap 67 and led the final 33 laps for his second
win of the season.
On Friday, Bourdais was uncomfortable with his car in a morning
practice, but his team made some quick adjustments at lunchtime
that did the trick for afternoon qualifying.
"The first run was a little difficult," Bourdais said. "The
second run was not really much different on the setup, but it's the
minor details that make for a whole lot different lap at the end."
Power won from the pole in Las Vegas, then finished third in
Long Beach after nabbing the provisional pole. The 26-year-old
Australian was disappointed with his run on Friday and was eager to
atone in Saturday's full-field qualifying round.
"We can go back and have a good look at everything and come out
with a pretty good car tomorrow," he said. "I made a lot of
mistakes. My best lap was a rubbish lap. Maybe a bit of overdriving
Drivers complained last season about the hard bumps on the
course, set up in the massive parking lot next to Reliant Stadium.
Track officials ground down the surface and eased some curves and
the racers are happy with the results.
"I certainly think they've made some improvements," said
Rahal, who crashed in last year's Atlantic race in Houston and
finished 15th. "The bumps seem to be a lot better on the back
straight and the other changes I tend to like. The track is headed
in the right direction."
Several cars were damaged bouncing and scraping off the uneven
concrete last year. All the racers are driving Panoz DP01s this
year and Bourdais said they're a better match for the improved
"I'm glad they did it because I don't think the Panoz was ready
for as big a beating as the Lola was getting last year," said
Bourdais. "It's still rough, concrete racing, but it's a lot of
fun once you get a good handle on the car."
At least one driver still had reason to gripe.
Rookie Alex Figge skipped provisional qualifying and will sit
out Sunday's race after aggravating a back injury he suffered in a
crash in Long Beach.
Figge withdrew on Friday, after a few painful practice laps on
the bumpy track in Houston.
"I experienced a huge amount of discomfort in practice," said
Figge, fifth in the rookie standings. "From here, I will focus on
recovery, so we can log some miles in May."
Figge had an MRI exam on Friday afternoon and hopes to return by
next month, when the Pacific Coast Motorsports team has testing
"I need to make sure I am recovered, as those tests are
essential," the Davenport, Iowa native said.