Jimmy Vasser was the fly in Toyota's ointment at Long Beach on Saturday as he used all his experience to put his Ford powered Lola on pole position for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and begins his 2002 title challenge.

Shell sponsored Team Rahal driver Jimmy Vasser claimed the pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Long Beach with a fastest lap of 104.585mph. Vasser's fast lap was run in 67.742 seconds edging Newman-Haas driver Cristiano da Matta by a scant three thousandths around the cramped 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit.

The pole position was the first of the season for Team Rahal and a series best eighth pole position for the team since the start of the 2001 season. For Vasser it was his eighth career pole and his first since the Michigan 500 in 1999.

Gigante sponsored Rahal driver Michel Jourdain Jr. will start tenth on Sunday in his second start with Team Rahal. Jourdain posted a fast lap of 103.206 mph in qualifying and was on track preparing for his final run when the session was red flagged and ended due to Michael Andretti's crash. Vasser was able to complete his final run and rob Da Matta of the pole with just seconds to spare.

The pole position is the second at Long Beach for Team Rahal. In 1998 then Shell driver Bryan Herta captured the pole and Bobby Rahal qualified second as Team Rahal captured the front row in qualifying.

Team Rahal is still searching for its first victory at Long Beach however. Rahal finished second at Long Beach twice (1992 and 1993) and Herta captured a pair of third place results in 1998 and 1999. Vasser won the 1996 Grand Prix of Long Beach and has seven top-ten results on the Californian street circuit.

"We got a clear lap and the power hooked up really well," beamed Vasser. "We finally got our first point. I nailed the last part of the track. It's really a crapshoot with this qualifying set-up. You can be on a hot lap and someone comes out of the pits on cold tires and screws up your lap. So you don't know whether to come out quickly or wait for a gap in the traffic. It isn't easy.

"I have to give it to my Shell team today. They wanted to run the primary car for qualifying and I thought the backup car was quicker. So they changed things around really fast to have the backup ready for this afternoon. We have good energy on this team with Michel and myself right now. This reminds me of the atmosphere around the Target team in the mid to late 1990s. This team can race to win here Sunday. They won the most races last year in CART last year and I have a lot of confidence in Team Rahal. There are a lot of factors that can determine the outcome of a race. It's definitely an advantage to start on the front row here. But we have to be fast and consistent both on the track and in the pits."

On the track where six years ago he made his CART debut, Jourdain Jr was thwarted by traffic and dropped six places from his overnight fourth place. He too lost almost a second in time to his teammate whom he beat on Friday before having his best time disallowed.

"I think the Gigante car is very good but I just couldn't get a clean lap," said the disappointed Mexican driver. "Traffic was very difficult and I think some people were blocking. But I know I have a faster car than tenth today. I'm just very disappointed because we have been fast all weekend. I'm very happy for Jimmy to get the pole position. It's very good for Team Rahal."