The day may have started out under dark clouds and thunderstorms in Toronto, but it ended with sunny skies and a performance to remember for the Conquest Racing team.
Canadian driver Alex Tagliani defied his interrupted campaign to give the one-car team its best IndyCar Series start since joining the unified series in 2008, making the Firestone Fast Six - ahead of Penske's Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe and 2008 series champion Scott Dixon - and claiming the inside of row three for the first Honda Indy Toronto under the IRL banner.
With morning practice taking place in wet conditions, Tagliani did not know quite what to expect when qualifying got underway in the dry, but was confident that he had the speed to do well at what is considered one of the team's 'home' races. Having scraped through the first round of group qualifying by just a hundredth of a second, the leading Canadian on the day - Paul Tracy having been on the wrong end of that hundredth - had no intention of 'barely' making it into the Fast Six.
On his ninth lap of second round qualifying, Tagliani registered a 1min 01.0567secs lap which placed him two tenths up on everyone, sending him comfortably into the final round after coming close at the first two street courses of the season. Once the final round went green, the Conquest team sent its driver out immediately to try and set a fast lap on the alternate tyres he had used in the previous round and, after setting a lap of 1min 01.8544secs, Tagliani improved to 1min 01.6980secs on Firestone's regular slicks to claim fifth.
“For a small but talented team like ours, to be ahead of drivers from teams like Penske and Ganassi, it means a lot to us," the driver admitted, "It's a good reward for everyone on the team and they truly deserve it because they do such a fantastic job.
"It's also very special to have a good performance like this at a home race in front of my fellow Canadians, and nice to be able to offer our sponsors a good qualifying result. I'm confident we can follow this up with another strong performance tomorrow.”
Compatriot Paul Tracy, an Ontario native, did not enjoy the same degree of success, bowing out in the opening round of qualifying after performing well in morning practice.
“I am super disappointed," the veteran admitted, "We just missed advancing by a hundredth of a second - the times were so tight from fifth to eighth [in the qualifying group] and I just couldn't get any more out of the car.
"We had a very good car in the first practice yesterday, when the track was slippery, and a good car on the wet track this morning, so I am very frustrated. As far as the race tomorrow goes, it is going to be tough, but it is a street circuit and anything can happen. I have to get the car through turn one at the start and not get collected in a crash. Then it's just settle into a pace, work our race strategy, save fuel and the tyres and see what happens....”