Fresh from finishing runner-up to Chip Ganassi team-mate Dario Franchitti at the Indianapolis 500 less than seven days ago, Scott Dixon has narrowly claimed pole position for the IndyCar Series’ return to Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit.
Dixon narrowly edged out IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power for top spot by just four-hundredths of a second around the twisty parkway circuit.
Some of the more fancied runners struggled with traffic and set-up woes in qualifying, giving the final ‘Fast Six’ session a rather unusual make-up.
Fresh from switching from Lotus to Honda power, Alex Tagliani took his Bryan Herta Autosports entry to the giddy heights of third place. The Canadian will start alongside former ChampCar team-mate and leading rookie driver Simon Pagenaud, who was fourth-fastest in his Schmidt-Hamilton entry. The top-six was rounded by KV Racing’s EJ Viso and Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Will Power’s Penske stablemates Ryan Briscoe and Hélio Castroneves both missed out on a ‘Fast Six’ appearance, qualifying eighth- and ninth-fastest respectively, with Briscoe glancing the wall in the closing minutes of the second phase of qualifying and damaging his suspension.
The pair will start one place higher on the grid, as seventh-fastest driver Graham Rahal will drop ten places on the grid. The Chip Ganassi driver underwent an engine change following the Sao Paulo race last month, with the grid penalty being applied for this race under the series’ rules.
Another ex-Lotus runner to qualify well was Sébastien Bourdais, who took the sole-remaining Dragon Racing entry (now powered by Chevrolet) to an excellent tenth-fastest, a result that serves to demonstrate how uncompetitive the Lotus powerplant is.
Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing) and Takuma Sato (RLL) both made it into the top-twelve phase of qualifying, with Sato’s performance being the best of his 2012 season to-date.
Managing traffic around this narrow and twisty circuit was always going to be a huge challenge, and qualifying saw several high-profile scalps fail to make it out over the first qualifying hurdle. The likes of Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello all failed to make the ‘Round 2’ cut.
Marco Andretti was another high-profile failure. He’ll start from the penultimate row of the grid after making some poor set-up choices that drastically worsened the handling of his Dallara DW12.
Franchitti, winner last time out at Indianapolis, hit out at some of the slower runners, particularly Ed Carpenter, who was slowest of the group and over two seconds off the pace of the next-slowest driver. Carpenter is no road or street course racer, and he frustrated many other drivers as he blundered into their path while they were attempting a fast lap.
2012 IndyCar Series Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Final Qualifying Results:
* Will incur a ten-place grid penalty for a previous engine change