Will Power races to Sao Paulo pole - LAT/INDYCAR photoEnlarge Photo
Honda wanted more parity in IZOD IndyCar Series racing and in qualifying for Sunday's Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle they certainly got it. Armed with a new compressor cover for their Borg Warner turbocharger, Honda placed three cars in Firestone Fast Six qualifying for the first time this season with qualifying held on an overcast and muggy but dry afternoon.
The two Team Target Honda-powered cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were joined by Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson, this trio battling the Chevrolet-powered Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe in the third and final round of knockout qualifying.
It took five minutes of the 10-minute session for any driver to put numbers up, but by the close of the session it was a familiar face taking pole position - again. Team Penske's Chevy-engined Will Power, who won this race the past two years will sit on the pole for Sunday's race.
Will Power's lap of 1:21.4045 on his second of four laps beat all comers, but didn't match his new track record in the second qualifying session of 1:21.2718 around the 2.536-mile, 11-turn Sao Paulo street track. It was Team Penske's fourth pole position of the four-race IZOD IndyCar Series season, Power's 26th pole of his career that ties Dario Franchitti for ninth overall.
Power admitted, "It's good to put the Verizon Chevrolet on the pole. It was satisfying, especially knowing that Honda seems to have an advantage on the straights at the moment, so being on pole is a good start to the weekend. I have a feeling," he mused, "it's going to be wet or maybe wet-dry for the race so it will mix things up a lot."
The Aussie shares the front row with Franchitti who was second as he made his first trip to Firestone Fast Six qualifying this year at 1:21.4485, on his third of four laps this afternoon. It's the reigning champion's second front row start after all Chevrolet runners had 10-place penalties in Long Beach for engine changes. "This definitely feels a lot better than the first three races," Franchitti said.
Dario Franchitti is happy with his car - LAT/INDYCAR photoEnlarge Photo
"I made a mistake in Turn 5 on my last lap and I think that was the difference between Will and myself today. The car is much, much better now. It's a combination of the work the team has done," he noted, "a good job from Honda and I think I'm finally driving the car properly."
Teammate Scott Dixon took third place at 1:21.8845, despite going off-track (a local yellow was called) at the 11th turn with just over 3:30 left on the clock. While Dixon thought his car was pretty good, "It was fairly loose, which is a bit odd for this year. We went down into Turn 11 and the left-front locked straight away with a big flat spot and went into the runoff. We got back to third and I was lucky that some of the other cars were a bit slower to get up to speed," the two-time champ said.
James Hinchcliffe's impressive sophomore season in the N. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevy-powered DW12 continues with his fourth-place grid slot at 1:21.9956; he's the only driver to qualify for Firestone Fast Six qualifying in every race held this year. "I guess four is the number of the day: fourth place, fourth time in Firestone Fast Six," he said. "I need to get a better handle on how to make these tires work better on the second run; we seem to be good on sticker (tires) bt in the second run we struggle a little bit," he said.
Hinch's Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay lines up in fifth place based on his third lap (of five) at 1:22.2408 "We do need to make some changes but that's what it's all about. We'll be ready tomorrow rain or shine," Hunter-Reay said. "This historically has been a great track for us and we're disappointed to qualify fifth."
Justin Wilson ended up sixth at 1:22.2681, turned on his second of five laps. The Briton thought it ws "great to make it into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time this year; we're really pleased with that. We made the right changes (in Q2) but we messed up on the last change and the car was a bit of a handful. That's how it goes sometimes."
Rounding out the top 12 runners are Graham Rahal, Mike Conway and Josef Newgarden, all driving Honda-powered cars, Ryan Briscoe, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan with Chevrolet power, the latter the sole Brazilian in the top 12. The crowds cheered loudest for 13th qualifier Rubens Barrichello (Chevy), making his first home-field start in the Indy cars. Teammate EJ Viso starts 14th giving KV Racing Technology three drivers in a row.
Barrichello was mobbed at the track - LAT/INDYCAR photoEnlarge Photo
Takuma Sato, who had such a fine run in Long Beach never made a qualifying lap. He'd had transmission trouble in the first practice coupled an engine problem in practice No. 2, so will make an engine change and go to the rear of the pack, joined by Katherine Legge who had her own engine problems at Long Beach that carried over to this race. Helio Castroneves, who crashed earlier in practice, only managed to qualify 20th.
Sunday's race will be televised on NBC Sports with a starting time of 11AM EDT.