Wilson wins provisional pole in Long Beach
Mario Dominguez was an excellent fourth for Pacific Coast Motorsports and St. Petersburg GP winner Graham Rahal was 5th in the sister NHLR car to Justin Wilson.
Wilson, who fills some pretty big shoes in the McDonald's car given all the success it has had with former driver Sebastien Bourdais (who left Champ Car for F1), was happy to win the provisional pole which guarantees him a front-row starting position on Sunday.
His lap of 1m07.356s was a full 1/2 second faster than Servia's 1m07.858s lap.
“We felt that the McDonald’s car was good, and I was very pleased with how it was handling. But we went out and did quite a quick time on the Bridgestone (standard) black tires that still would have been good enough for pole, but we weren't sure what everyone else was doing down the pit lane.
"We didn't get a good pit selection so we couldn't see, so we decided let's go and see what they're like. We tried the Bridgestone Red tires and they worked great. I'm just very pleased to keep up the tradition of the McDonald's car being quickest.
Perhaps the real surprise in first round qualifying was Enrique Bernoldi driving for Conquest Racing.
“I was pushing hard. I had a few misfortunes with the traffic in both stints but I was pushing hard and the car was running well. I was getting more used to it from the morning. It’s different compared to the Dallara. So as I got more used to the car I also got more familiar with the track. I’m happy and I think tomorrow we can improve a lot still. (About the track) It’s a nice track. You have to push a lot here but also to be smooth. It’s a technical track and with the bumps it makes it harder but so far I like it!”
We asked Bernoldi how the Champ Car drives compared to the IRL car he has been driving this year.
"It's much harder physically," said Bernoldi. "It has a lot more power, more downforce and the steering is much harder on the Champ Car because it does not have the IRL's variable rate steering and the higher downforce makes the steering harder to turn. And I like this Long Beach track. It's fast and very technical."
There will be a one hour and ten minute practice session in the morning, followed by final qualifying at 2:00 p.m. locally. The Grand Prix of Long Beach will take the green flag on Sunday, April 20 at 1:00 PDT and with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. EST. Live video stream from this weekend can be viewed on indycar.com.
FIRST QUALIFYING QUOTES:
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (No. 96 Pacific Coast Motorsports): “I am very happy with our result today. I haven’t been in a car in half a year, since the Mexico City race last November, so it feels great to be running in the top five. This is my first race with my new engineer, Gerald Tyler, and we are working well together. The car feels good. I think we can do a little more with it, and I think I left a bit on the table today, so tomorrow should be great. It feels great to be back at PCM; it feels just like home to me. It’s also great to be back with my teammate, Alex Figge. We tried the Bridgestone red alternate tires, and I don’t think we’ve figured out how to get the most out of them. I set my fastest time on the Bridgestone black tire. They felt great.”
ALEX FIGGE (No. 29 Imperial Capital Bank-Pacific Coast Motorsports): “People are just acting insane out there. I know a lot of these guys haven’t raced a Champ Car before, and I don’t have a ton of experience in a Champ Car, but what is happening out there is just insane. People are gapping at 15 miles per hour. Typically, it is understandable to gap once or twice per set of tires, but there are guys gapping five or six times, and it’s just destroying everybody else’s efforts. My third lap was my quickest. That is ridiculous. The good news is the car was quick off of the truck, and I think we have a lot of potential for tomorrow.”
ENRIQUE BERNOLDI (No. 36 Sangari-Conquest Racing): “I was pushing hard. I had a few misfortunes with the traffic in both stints, but I was pushing hard and the car was running well. I was getting more used to it from the morning. It’s different compared to the Dallara (used in IndyCar Series). So as I got more used to the car, I also got more familiar with the track. I’m happy, and I think tomorrow we can improve a lot still.” (About the track): “It’s a nice track. You have to push a lot here but also to be smooth. It’s a technical track, and with the bumps it makes it harder, but so far I like it.”
FRANCK PERERA (No. 34 Conquest Racing): “Unfortunately, I didn’t get much track time this morning because we had some fuel pressure issues, and then again in the pre-qualifying practice session the fuel pressure problems came back, which affected our qualifying run. We will resolve the issue for tomorrow, and fortunately we have another chance on Saturday to improve our qualifying position.”
EJ VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing): “Well, in qualifying we had a few issues, and we couldn’t use both of our sets of tires. We are starting to work in the right direction, and I’m sure for tomorrow’s qualifying session we are going to be quicker. We just need to work a little harder. However, it is great to be here in Long Beach for this historical race, and I’m proud to be a part of Champ Car’s finale.”
ROBERTO MORENO (No. 14 Minardi/HVM Racing): “I’m extremely happy with this opportunity to drive here and extremely happy with the package the team put together for me in a very short time. I’m also extremely happy with my performance today. I thought today would be spent with me getting used to the car again, and although I have put a lot miles in this car, I haven’t done any setup work. I had to get used to the speed again and I made a few mistakes, but I impressed myself today. After a few years out of the seat, we got up to speed quickly, which had a lot to do with the car the team gave me. We have a little bit more work to do getting the car balanced but I think we’ll be OK.”
ANTONIO PIZZONIA (No. 9 Rocketsports): “I am getting used to the #9 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone Champ Car, but I am still not 100 percent comfortable. We continue to make changes to the car now that I have a little more seat time, so we are improving. We knew going into today that it was going to take a little time to really get to where we wanted to be. It is a shame that I had to end the afternoon session in the wall. I just lost rear grip at the turn-in point of Turn 1, and it caused me to spin and make contact. But I feel that we were able to take good advantage of all the time out on the track today, which will definitely help us improve for tomorrow. I think we are on the right track and expect better results for the final round of qualifying tomorrow afternoon.”
JUHO ANNALA (No. 10 Pulp Management Agency/Rocketsports): “The #10 Pulp Management Agency/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone Champ Car is even more comfortable for me, and it is still a lot of fun to drive. This track is a lot of fun, but at the same time there are just so many new things to learn, and it is a challenging circuit. It was unfortunate that we were only able to get about 10 laps of practice in this morning, so I lost quite a bit of running time today. I think that we are getting there slowly, as the plan wasn’t for me to try and run for the pole today. We are taking it one step at a time as there is still a lot for me to learn with the car and track. But I think with a few more laps and some setup changes with the car, it will all come together, and we will have an even stronger day tomorrow.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology): “It would have been nice to have been on the provisional pole, so we would have guaranteed that the KV Racing Technology car would be on the front row for the race, but I am really happy to see we have the speed. We just need to work a little bit more to improve car and hopefully have a great weekend. Once again, the KVRT crew has done a great job in getting my car ready. I really appreciate all the hard work they have done.”
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards – Team Australia-KV Racing Technology): “This was a bad session for me. I was unable to get a lap, and then on my best lap, which was still not that great, I got stuck behind traffic. We need to go back and take a look at a couple of issues we have with braking and hopefully we can move the KVRT Aussie Vineyards – Team Australia car further up the grid tomorrow.”
JIMMY VASSER (No. 12 Plantronics-KV Racing Technology): “I feel reasonably good in the KVRT Plantronics car, just a little disappointed I didn’t run better. I just didn’t get a good lap qualifying. I messed one up on the first run. I had a good lap going, which probably would have put me eighth, and then I just didn’t get any lap at all on the last set of tires. But I am sure tomorrow will be much better.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): “The car was definitely much better this afternoon, but I still think there is a little ways to go to making it better. Certainly, we could have been quicker, but with the incident with Will Power, it kind of ruined the tires. Plus we didn’t run the Bridgestone alternate tires. Realistically if you compare apples to apples, we’re only a tenth-and-one half (of a second) off of Justin’s (Wilson) best time on the blacks (standard Bridgestone tires). We didn’t think we had a realistic shot at pole, so we decided it was best for us to run blacks and save a couple of sets of alternate tires to run tomorrow. It’s nice to get back in the Champ Car. When I first got in, I had to refresh my memory about a lot of the things I would take from the IndyCar Series car and vice versa. I obviously like the power and speed of these cars, but there is something from each that would go into my ideal open-wheel car.”
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