There’s a strange serendipity happening in the world of IndyCars so far in 2011. While Sebastian has stormed to comfortable pole positions in each of the three opening races of the 2011 Formula 1 season, across the Pacific Ocean, Penske driver Will Power is mirroring the result. This time the Australian clinched his third pole position of the season ahead of this afternoon’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
But the Penske driver came very close to finally being toppled from his qualifying dominance by Andretti Autosports’ Ryan Hunter-Reay – the winner of the race here last year – who lapped half a second faster than anyone else had managed in the ‘Final Six’ qualifying shootout.
But Power dug deeper on his next flying lap, just edging out Hunter-Reay by a tiny margin of 0.076 seconds, and the American was was simply unable to match or better Power’s effort.
It was a positive qualifying result for half of the Andretti four-car squad, with Mike Conway lining up third-quickest ahead of Oriol Servià, with the IndyCar returnee putting in another impressive effort for the Newman/Haas squad, despite a crash in third practice.
The ‘Final Six’ was completed by Dreyer & Reinbold’s Justin Wilson, with the second Penske of Hélio Castroneves slowest in the final phase of qualifying.
For the first time this season, none fo the Ganassi entries made the final phase of qualifying, with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon occupying the fourth row – the later accused pole-man Power of holding him up on a flying lap.
One of the other big losers in qualifying was Penske’s third entry of Ryan Briscoe, who will start from a lowly 12th after going down the wrong path on his car’s set-up. In Briscoe’s defence, top-twelve ‘Round 2’ session was a particularly tight affair with just half-a-second covering the field; Briscoe was only 0.2 seconds off making the ‘Final Six’ cut.
But qualifying also provided more impressive top-twelve results, with Alex Tagliani again impressing with ninth-fastest in the new Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry, ahead of leading KV Racing driver Tony Kanaan and Newman/Haas’ very impressive rookie James Hinchcliffe.
Those who qualified outside the top-twelve will be relying on alternate strategies and safety car interruptions to move up the order, and the likes of Vitor Meira, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Danica Patrick and JR Hildebrand will all be disappointed to be so far down the grid.
On the flipside, rookie driver Sebastian Saavedra took his Conquest entry to 15th on the grid.
Meanwhile, IndyCar returnee Paul Tracy will start his Dragon Racing entry at the back of the field after being slowest in his qualifying group, some two rows down on his former ChampCar arch-rival Sébastien Bourdais.
2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Qualifying Results:
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske||1:09.0649|
|2.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||1:09.1409||+ 0.0760|
|3.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||1:09.6414||+ 0.5765|
|4.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||1:09.6828||+ 0.6179|
|5.||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||1:09.8097||+ 0.7448|
|6.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||1:09.8423||+ 0.7774|
|7.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi||1:09.6037||(Round 2)|
|8.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi||1:09.6385||(Round 2)|
|9.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||1:09.6497||(Round 2)|
|10.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:09.7352||(Round 2)|
|11.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||1:10.8122||(Round 2)|
|12.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||1:10.8243||(Round 2)|
|13.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||1:10.1010||(Group 1)|
|14.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||1:09.9400||(Group 2)|
|15.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||1:10.1146||(Group 1)|
|16.||Graham Rahal||Chip Ganassi||1:10.5883||(Group 2)|
|17.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:10.1465||(Group 1)|
|18.||Simona di Silvestro||HVM Racing||1:10.6407||(Group 2)|
|19.||Raphael Matos||AFS Racing||1:10.3477||(Group 1)|
|20.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||1:10.7836||(Group 2)|
|21.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dale Coyne Racing||1:10.8050||(Group 1)|
|22.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:10.8197||(Group 2)|
|23.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||1:11.8592||(Group 1)|
|24.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||1:10.8672||(Group 2)|
|25.||Paul Tracy||Dragon Racing||1:11.0249||(Group 1)|
|26.||Simon Pagenaud||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||1:11.0341||(Group 2)|
|27.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||1:11.4916||(Group 2)|