Monterrey GP: Wilson takes provisional pole

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Justin Wilson took the provisional pole in the Monterrey Grand Prix.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:40 IST
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Justin Wilson needed more grip on the slippery road course. Switching to option tires proved to be the answer on Friday. Making the change in the closing minutes of preliminary qualifying, the 27-year-old Briton turned a lap at 101.937 mph (164.016 kph) in his Ford-Cosworth powered Lola to beat Sebastien Bourdais for the provisional pole in the Monterrey Grand Prix. Wilson finished in 1 minute, 14.305 seconds. France's Bourdais is the Champ Car circuit's only winner this year, after race victories to start the season in Long Beach and Houston. He won here in 2004, but finished in 1:14.658 on Friday, 0.353 seconds behind Wilson, on the 2.1-mile (3.4-kilometer) course at Parque Fundidora which curves past a rusty, defunct steel mill. Wilson's RuSport teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, the only American in the 17-driver field, was third with a time of 1:14.860, 0.555 seconds behind Wilson. The alternate tires Wilson used are made of a softer compound and were able to heat up on the track's hot surface more quickly for a steadier grip. Each team gets two sets of them for the weekend, and is required to use at least one during the race. ''It was a good gamble we went for,'' said Wilson, who said he used the tires for only less than two laps, leaving open the option of reusing the set later this weekend. Two other former winners rounded out the top five: Canadian Paul Tracy, who won here in 2003, recorded a best lap of 1:15.144, and 2005 Monterrey champion Bruno Junqueira of Brazil (1:15.162) was 0.857 seconds off the lead. Qualifying was sloppy as cars slid frequently and a red flag came out with four minutes left. After changing tires, Wilson was in his final lap when he fell behind Junqueira, and it appeared he would get held up. But the Brazilian suddenly let him pass. ''I think he made a mistake and aborted his lap and got out of the way,'' Wilson said of Junqueira, ''So, 'Thanks, Bruno for not hindering my lap.''' Bourdais, who like Junqueira drives for Newman-Haas Racing, responded to that in a tone that was only half-joking: ''I think I'm going to have a word with my teammate.'' The two-time defending Champ Car points champion, Bourdais veered off the track a few times early, then got caught behind Mexico's Mario Dominguez, who refused to let him pass. ''I was just about ready to start and go fast and I caught Mario and he was definitely not willing to let me by,'' Bourdais said. He said the incident made him angry, and he was never fully able to regain his composure. ''If not for the result,'' Bourdais said, ''I'd call it a miserable session.'' The provisional pole gave Wilson one point in the season standings, moving him to 49, one behind second-place Dominguez, the only Mexican in the race. Bourdais leads the points standings with 68. Allmendinger was fastest during the Friday morning qualifying session, but settled for third four hours later, with temperatures near 90 degrees (32 C). ''We were quickest this morning in practice,'' he said. ''In qualifying, we were just a bit off. '' Dominguez, a Mexico City native, hit the wall on the front stretch during the warmup before qualifying and never got into a groove as the afternoon wore on, despite doing all he could to block Bourdais early. He finished 11th, 2.119 seconds behind Wilson. (AP)