Moreover, the Frenchman initially appeared destined for a provisional position well down the order as he struggled to put a clear lap together in the first half of the 30-minute session. Even when the field commenced its second runs, the three-time champion found it hard to put together the effort he was looking for, and it wasn't until the 29th minute that he finally vaulted up the order – straight into top spot.
Bourdais' 49.509secs lap was good enough to knock two tenths off Justin Wilson's target time, the Briton having come out on top of a fascinating struggle with Will Power in the opening part of the session.
Although the not the first runners on track – that honour was left to Dan Clarke and Paul Tracy, who battled over the initial pole – Wilson and Power dominated the first 15 minutes, swapping fastest times between themselves, always comfortably ahead of the rest. Power usurped Clarke from P1 by being the first to duck under the 50secs barrier, but Wilson was already tracking the Australian.
Perera ends Sebring test on top
05/02/2008 AT 16:19
Despite reporting problems with his dashboard, the RSport driver made his second lap count, taking provisional pole by a scant 0.004secs. Power hit back next time around, taking the target into the 49.8s, and it took a couple of attempts for Wilson to reply with a 49.747secs effort. The Briton eventually ended the first runs in front, but only after Power's final lap ended with valuable tenths being lost at the final corner when the Team Australia machine had been on course to return to P1.
Bourdais, meanwhile, was 17th and last, unable to find space on the tight Redback Speedway street circuit, while the battle for third spot saw the place change hands regularly, beginning with Katherine Legge and ending with Alex Tagliani.
There was brief hiatus between the first series of qualifying runs ending and the second starting, again beginning with Tracy, Clarke, Legge and Alex Figge, the PCM driver being first out this time around.
There were no improvements significant enough to bother the frontrunners, with Tracy jumping only as far as sixth before spinning at turn one – a corner already boasting Bourdais' scalp from earlier in the session. The lack of progress was just as well for neither Power or Wilson appeared to have much more to give, despite the Briton aborting a potentially faster lap with around five minutes to go, and then taking a trip into the turn six run-off on his final attempt.
That left the door open for Bourdais, and the Frenchman was quick to barge his way through, vaulting straight into top spot with a lap of 49.509secs. That was good enough to give the Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver the overnight advantage, as well as a bonus point with which to extend his championship lead.
Wilson and Power duly slotted in behind, frustrated that there efforts had not been good enough to secure at least a front row position for Sunday.
Unlike Wilson and Power Bruno Junqueira did manage to find time second time around, leaping up to fourth spot on another string showing for the Dale Coyne Racing team. The Brazilian squeezed onto row two ahead of Tagliani, whose own improvement only took him to an identical time. Joining Tagliani on row three overnight is Robert Doornbos, the Dutchman enjoying better fortunes than in Edmonton, if not being able to get on early terms with his championship protagonists.
Oriol Servia and Simon Pagenaud were next up, with Tristan Gommendy – driving with compression fractures in his back – and early polesitter Clarke rounding out the top ten.
The Briton was the first of those not to break the 50secs barrier by the end of the half-hour, but was only 0.029secs off and will likely improve on Saturday, when most drivers have two sets of the softer red-walled Bridgestone tyres with which to find time. Clarke's opponent from the opening laps, Tracy, was eleventh, just 0.05secs off his adversary, and only 0.021secs ahead of provisional sixth row partner Jan Heylen.
Indeed, the times were close throughout the bottom half of the grid, with 17th-placed Neel Jani 0.6secs of Clarke and Tracy and only just over a second from pole. Between the Swiss driver and PKV team-mate Gommendy in ninth lay Clarke, Tracy, Heylen, Graham Rahal – the NHLR driver appearing troubled by his car from the start – Mario Dominguez, in at PCM this week after his return with PKV in Edmonton, Legge and Figge, most of whom appeared capable of challenging for a top ten slot had traffic been kinder.
Season 2008
Perera ends Sebring test on top
05/02/2008 AT 16:14
Conquest to double ChampCar assault
03/01/2008 AT 14:20