Spaniard Oriol Servia Leads First Qualifying Session At Indy 300 In Australia

Friday, October 19th 2007, 10:22 am
By: News On 6

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (AP) _ Oriol Servia had a solid qualifying performance Friday for a guy who wasn't expected in Australia.

Servia, a late replacement for Tristan Gommendy on the PKV Racing team, had the fastest provisional qualifying time of 1 minute, 30.862 seconds for the Lexmark Indy 300 on Sunday.

Will Power of Australia was second-fastest in 1:30.895, followed by Justin Wilson of Britain (1:31.365). Sebastien Bourdais crashed for the second time in three days and finished eighth.

Bourdais leads Wilson by 58 points for the Champ Car drivers' title.

Servia wasn't supposed to race Down Under, but he replaced the French driver who couldn't travel to Australia because of an ``unresolved business situation,'' said PKV team general manager Mark Johnson.

``It was a one-lap shootout at the end,'' Servia said. ``Although I just changed teams, it's the same crew I worked with last year, same engineer.''

Servia is guaranteed a front-row position for race, regardless of how he does in the second qualifying session Saturday on the 2.795-mile circuit.

Bourdais' crash-filled week Down Under continued. Three days after escaping injury after rolling a rally car onto its roof, the 28-year-old French driver hit the wall.

Bourdais, who needs to finish 12th or better Sunday to clinch his fourth straight Champ Car drivers' title, was not injured in Friday's mishap. After jumping out of his car, he jogged along the track to an open gate, helmet in hand.

``I just got the tire bundle and broke the suspension,'' Bourdais said. ``We'll give it another shot tomorrow.''

The only American drivers in the field this weekend are both rookies. Graham Rahal, the 18-year-old son of three-time series champion Bobby Rahal drives for Newman Haas Lanigan. Alex Figge, a former Champ Car Atlantic driver, is with the Pacific Coast Motorsports.

Rahal, who was on a fast lap when teammate Bourdais crashed to force a caution, was 13th among 17 drivers Friday. Figge finished 15th.

The 33-year-old Servia finished in the top 10 in all but one of his 11 Champ Car starts this year. That included four top-five showings, with a second place at Long Beach and third at San Jose with Forsythe Racing.

In 2005, Servia won the pole and finished fifth, then qualified sixth and led the race in 2006 before a mechanical failure knocked him out.

``Obviously, we have to do it Sunday,'' the Spainard said. ``I learned that in '05.''