Wilson fast again, wins Long Beach pole
Justin Wilson turned the fastest lap on his last qualifying lap to win the pole position for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After securing the top spot in Friday's provisional pole qualifying, Wilson was the only driver to get down into the 1 minute 6 second bracket with a 1m06.902s lap to top 2nd fastest qualifier Alex Tagliani and Franck rookie Franck Perera. Will Power and veteran Paul Tracy rounded out the top-5.
Seven drivers topped last year's pole of 1m07.546s. For Wilson it was his 7th career Champ Car pole and it was extra special being the final Champ Car race.
“I knew the McDonald’s car was working well and I was on a really good lap early in the session," said Wilson. "We came into Turn 9 and a car spun between 9 and 10 and it was quite frustrating because I know I was up four‑tenths on my previous lap, which was probably pretty good. I was expecting to be in the mid‑6’s at that point, but there was a car in the way and I had to back off.
"After that I had overshot my tires and was sliding around a bit more. We had to push hard and the team was telling me there was a lap time I had to beat, so I was just very pleased to sneak one in there in the last few seconds and get my car on pole again. We're going to try the best we can to go out on a high, which is quite an emotional event for everybody, being the last Champ Car race. It's a shame, but… We want to do the best we can, and if we’re good enough we'll be there, and if it's not good enough, maybe Alex (Tagliani) will be there.
"It's going to be a fun race. I'm focused on trying to win. I want to win for myself and the team, McDonald's, and also (wife) Julia and (seven-day old daughter) Jane back at home. It's been an amazing week for myself, so I'm sure I’m of the world right now. It would be great to see this off with a win tomorrow. I feel like I'm performing well. I'm feeling good," said a confident Wilson.
Speaking of keeping your focus during qualifying when your rhythm is broken, Wilson said, "It's also down to the individual lap. I think it was my fifth lap, I was not thinking about anything. My mind was completely blank, and I was up quite a lot. At that point I was in the zone and got into it because it takes a little bit to recompose yourself at that stage and go again, knowing that you've got to push hard to beat Alex."
Speaking of filling Sebastien Bourdais' shoes, Wilson said, "There is always some pressure from a guy who's won the championship four years in a row. But it's more so here and more so in qualifying than any other time.
"Now I feel like I've proven myself, and it's getting easier every day. But once we go to the IndyCar Series, it's a totally different animal and it's a different set of rules. I feel like I'm starting with a fresh sheet of paper there.”
Up until Wilson's last lap, Alex Tagliani was on pole for Walker Racing but it was not to be as Wilson just beat him by less than 1/10th of a second.
Tagliani had nothing but good things to say about the car Walker Racing has put under him.
"All these years and I never had a car as good as Derrick has given me. It's like night and day. If you don't have a good car you can't win, but with this car I feel like we have a real chance at winning tomorrow."
This is the final event of the CART/Champ Car World Series which has finally joined up with the IndyCar Series to form one open-wheel series. However, the two sides got together too late for either this race or IndyCar's Japan Indy 300 to shift to a separate weekend so there are two races being held simultaneously on two continents with drivers in both races earning points.
The race is scheduled to drop the green flag on Sunday at 4 p.m. (et).
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised at 5:30 p.m. (ET) (2:30 p.m. local) Sunday on ESPN2. The IMS Radio Network also will broadcast the race live, with coverage on XM IndyCar Series Racing Channel 145. The local IMS Radio Network affiliate for this event is KSPN 710 AM.
SECOND QUALIFYING QUOTES:
ANTONIO PIZZONIA (No. 9 Rocketsports): “Initially we had a lot of traffic during the final qualifying session, and then when we finally managed to find a gap, I had a problem with the steering wheel. It kept shifting the gears down by itself, so basically that slowed us down and I just couldn’t get in a good, quick lap at the end. But I think that for the race tomorrow, we are going to have a good car, especially on old tires because the #9 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone Champ Car was very well balanced when we ran on old tires. I expect it to be the same tomorrow. We are looking forward to the race; it is a shame that we did qualify well because I think we would have easily been in the top 10 on the grid tomorrow.”
JUHO ANNALA (No. 10 Pulp Management Agency/Rocketsports): “I am quite happy with the qualifying. I think after making a bit of a mistake in the practice this morning, which put me in the wall, cost us too many laps again like yesterday when we had the small issue in the pits. But the Rocketsports team did a really good job putting the car back together for me to run this afternoon. It was a lot of work, and I want to thank them for all their efforts. This afternoon, I think that we made big, big improvements both with my driving, and the engineers were able to get the #10 Pulp Management/Rockstar Energy Drink/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car set up even closer to suit me. But it was not easy, but still in a way, it was easier to bring the car to its limits today. So tomorrow is the race, and I think that if I can just keep a nice, steady pace throughout it and have no mistakes, then I think we have a chance for a good position in the end.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technologies/Plantronics/HP): “It was really unfortunate what happened to the KV Racing Technology car. Something broke, but that is racing, where everything is put to the limit. It’s a shame because the KVRT team prepared a great car. We were super-fast yesterday, qualifying second and quick in this morning’s practice, so we thought we had a chance for the pole. We will start 12th. Last year I started 14th and finished second, so this year we are starting a little better, so maybe we can finish even better.”
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards – Team Australia-KV Racing Technology): “It was a bit disappointing today for KVRT Aussie Vineyards – Team Australia because I did the same time on blacks (Bridgestone primary tire) as I did on reds (Bridgestone alternate tire), so we didn’t quite have the balance. We have had a bit of a downshift problem, which we need to fix for the race. Really, we didn’t need much more, unfortunately, on my best lap (Paul) Tracy spun, and I had to avoid him so I lost a couple of tenths there. I just need to look to the race tomorrow and try to win it.”
JIMMY VASSER (No. 12 Plantronics-KV Racing Technology): “I had a good time driving the KVRT Plantronics car today. I am finally starting to knock the rust off a bit, starting to actually be able to give some feedback back to the team and starting to do some driving. Today was a chance to get some driving points back. I think six-tenths off of (Will) Power is a reasonable progression, and I am pretty happy with that. I wish I could have squeezed another couple of tenths out of it, but everyone has the same story. I think as the race progresses tomorrow, the KVRT Plantronics car could become more and more competitive.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): “Today was kind of a mess. We can’t seem to find a setup for the car that we want or that I like. It’s been a difficult couple of days, so hopefully we can start to get some things figured out, but there is not much time left. That (qualifying) session was a joke. We had all these guys in front of us and also guys stacked up behind us. Viso was right behind us, and he’s ticked off. Everybody was fighting for track position out there, and I had the guys in front of me doing the same thing. It’s tough to pass here; we’ll just have to try to take an alternate strategy and make up some positions that way because I doubt we’ll be able to get to the front only due to passing. All the drivers are so similar in terms of lap times that its tough to get by. We need to finish to get some points. The biggest thing is that we need to cross the finish line tomorrow – especially if this race is for points.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (No. 96 Pacific Coast Motorsports): “I am really disappointed because I made the wrong call on the tires. The car is very fast, and unfortunately 10th does not show what the car really has. I thought we would be in the top three today. I have to give a special thanks to our driver coach, Lee Bentham. He has been very helpful. I am looking forward to tomorrow knowing we have a strong race car, and I think it will definitely be an exciting race.”
ALEX FIGGE (No. 29 Imperial Capital Bank-Pacific Coast Motorsports): “We just missed too much track time. We had a lot of problems with the car. On to the next chapter, I guess.”
NELSON PHILIPPE (No. 4 Minardi/HVM Racing): “I’m very happy for the team and very happy that Keith Wiggins gave me the chance to be here and I got to prove that I do all right for a guy who’s been on leave for six months. I’m quite happy. If you look at the guys in front of us, they are only a few tenths quicker, and all of them have either been driving in the IRL or at least at the Sebring test (in the DP01). So for me to jump in here and be pretty quick, especially after missing all of qualifying yesterday, it proves that this is a championship-caliber team … and the driver isn’t too bad, either. Like always, HVM in the past always gave me a great car for the race, and I’m sure tomorrow will be no different. Seeing how close we were with the times today, I’m confident we can easily finish in the top five if we keep our nose clean. I want to bring it home in one piece and at the front for my last Champ Car race.”
E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing): “It was a good session, and the car was great on the Bridgestone black tires. But on the reds, we needed some more fine-tuning. I was on a great lap when Graham Rahal blocked me twice against the wall. I think his team needs to buy him a new set of mirrors.”
ROBERTO MORENO (No. 14 Minardi/HVM Racing): “I’m extremely happy with what we did yesterday, and we made some improvements for today. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning with a stomach bug, along with several other members of the team, and so I’ve been feeling a little weak. For qualifying, I was feeling better and thought we would be quick, but we had a transmission problem somewhere. We just lost drive when I was starting my fast lap. It was unfortunate. I’m going to have to go with my time from yesterday, and we’ll do the best we can, saving fuel and implementing a good strategy to be there at the end. I know I have a good car, and it’s better to break now than a couple of laps into the race.”
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