DETROIT (July 1, 2000) - Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing topped a Brazilian assault on the speed charts Saturday when he captured his first career FedEx Championship Series pole position at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), who - despite not being numbered among the season's seven race winners to date - brought a 68-67 championship lead over Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske into this weekend's event, recorded a lap of 132.001 miles per hour (57.436 seconds) on the 2.106-mile temporary street circuit. The championship point he earned for the effort padded his lead over de Ferran to two points (69-67) entering Sunday's ninth of 20 rounds in this year's championship on the runways at Burke Lakefront Airport.
De Ferran joins Moreno on the front row after a lap of 131.799 miles per hour (57.524 seconds), adding to an effort which saw four Brazilians qualify among the top five starters for Sunday's event. Moreno, meanwhile, exceeded his previous career-best start of second, established at Rio de Janeiro in 1997.
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), the season's only two-time winner to date, will make his fourth front row start of the season, including poles at Homestead and Long Beach. Another native Brazilian, he also earned the outside pole last week at Portland.
Fellow Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) of the PacWest Racing Group qualified third at 131.767 mph (57.538 seconds). It marked his best qualifying performance of the season and his best overall since earning the outside pole at Japan last year.
American Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing helped avert a Brazilian sweep of the top five places by qualifying fourth at 131.682 mph (57.575 seconds). It marks a season-best start for Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader (39), eclipsing sixth at Homestead.
Rounding out the top five qualifiers was Brazilian Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), fifth at 131.664 mph (57.583 seconds). The qualifying performance marked a career-best for da Matta, improving on sixth at Detroit two weeks ago and Homestead last year.
Sixteen of the 25 qualifiers were covered by less than one second. Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), who is also the defending event champion, qualified sixth at 131.623 mph (57.601 seconds).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
ROBERTO MORENO, Visteon Ford Reynard: "It's been great. What can I say? It's just been fantastic. I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helped me get to this place. I was emotional today because I think my last pole in a series this competitive was in 1988 in Formula 3000. Yesterday we were developing the car, and today it was really good. It was a great day for the Visteon crew. Again, I want to thank everybody, there's so many friends. They told me to keep going and it's just great to get the pole when it's this competitive. It's all coming together now."
GIL DE FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It was a good day. I had a really good car in the morning, and I was very happy with everything we were doing. Unfortunately, I was not as happy in qualifying. I wasn't happy with the car on the first set of tires, and I had the same problem with the second set, and then the red flag came out and I still hadn't put in a lap that I felt was representative of the car. Luckily, we were able to get that one lap to get us up here. That was the only lap I had to do. That was tough because I was nowhere and the pressure was on. It was tense."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN, Nextel PacWest Mercedes: "I had a pretty trouble-free day, and I was happy with the car this morning. Always this place is very difficult because the conditions are always improving. I got a pretty good lap in before, but the computer was saying that I was doing pretty good on the last lap. Unfortunately, I ran out of fuel on the last chicane. It's still good, I think my best qualifying this season before this was seventh at Motegi, and I'm happy for Roberto because it's his first pole."
* Despite the fact that Saturday marked his first career pole position in FedEx Championship Series competition, Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) has started among the top 10 drivers in seven of the eight previous events this season. Two of those starts are top fives, third at Portland and fourth at Japan.
* Moreno's pole ends a run of four consecutive poles at Cleveland for Honda-powered drivers. Gil de Ferran (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and '98) and Juan Montoya (1999) were the drivers contributing to the effort.
* Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) outside pole-winning effort extends a run which has seen him qualify on the front row for four of his six appearances at Burke Lakefront Airport. Also included are a pole in 1995, his first in the FedEx Championship Series, as well as outside poles in 1997 and '99.
* Mauricio Gugelmin's (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) third-place qualifying effort was his best on a road or street course since qualifying third at Long Beach in 1997. His career-best road or street course start is second in the 1995 season opener in downtown Miami.
* Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) qualified fourth earn his ninth top-four start in 15 career appearances at Burke Lakefront Airport. Included is a pole position in 1989.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day," airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast airs 1 p.m. ET.