Justin Wilson spent the whole of the two Champ Car Mexican Grand Prix qualifying sessions in with a shout of pole – but ended up having to settle for fifth.
The Brit, driving for RuSPORT, lines up behind his only rival for championship runner-up, Robert Doornbos, who qualified third. If the pair finish the race that way then Wilson will finish second over all – but only just. A thrilling battle is on the cards later today.
He said: “The car wasn’t as smooth as yesterday and as the track got better, we weren’t able to keep up with it and it cost us the pole. We are obviously disappointed that we can’t be at the front and now we have to concentrate on making the car good for the race tomorrow and hope for a good result.”
Pole position was taken by Australia’s Will Power, despite driving with a broken wrist. Sebastien Bourdais, already confirmed as champion, had a disappointing second qualifying session on Saturday, posting only the 10th fastest time. However, his Friday efforts, where he was fastest, had guaranteed him a front row place and he will therefore start second. Doornbos is third and PKV’s Oriol Servia fourth ahead of Wilson.
His fellow Brits Dan Clarke and Katherine Legge experienced mixed fortunes.
Clarke could not match his Minardi team-mate Doornbos, despite reverting to what his team describes as his “stealth black” helmet. However, he hopes his eighth-fastest time, which translates to ninth on the grid because of Bourdais’s guaranteed front row, will give him a platform to attack.
He said: “We have struggled today, but finally, with the red tires, the car responded how I’d been asking it to. We have a few things to look into that we believe will improve the car still further, but this is a good result considering how we began the morning. We’re not at 100 per cent yet, but we should be good for the race tomorrow.”
Legge, like her Dale Coyne Racing team-mate Bruno Junqueira, has suffered all weekend from set-up problems. Unlike her team-mate, however, she was unable to benefit from a late upturn in performance as a red flag disrupted her fastest lap. She starts 16th of 17, Junqueira is 12th.
She said: “I thought everything went relatively well in qualifying compared to the rest of the weekend.
“We had some issues with the set-up of the car that I think we have overcome. It was unfortunate that the red flag cost us our fastest lap. If I would have been able to keep my fastest time I would be starting right next to my team-mate Bruno Junqueira, which is a goal of mine for every race.”
The race, the last of the season, starts at 7pm British time.