Paul Tracy may have held on to his provisional pole position in final qualifying at the 2.786-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but it was Portuguese series rookie Tiago Monteiro who stole the headlines by leading final qualifying and snatching a place alongside the current points leader on the front row of the grid for Sunday's Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante presented by Banamex/Visa.

The 27 year-old Porto born driver gained the first Champ Car World Series bonus point for himself and his first year Fittipaldi-Dingman team with a best lap of 1:29.042secs in the final minutes of Saturday's 40-minute session. Monteiro's lap may have been two tenths of a second slower than Tracy's Friday qualifying best but, in a session where half the field failed to fins any extra speed, it was a performance worthy of superlatives.

The fight for fastest in Saturday's final qualifying session was between three rookies: Monteiro, Darren Manning and Ryan Hunter-Reay as many of the more fancied runners failed to turn a better speed on Saturday. Manning held top spot initially in his Walker Racing Reynard-Ford with a lap of 1:29.193secs before Hunter-Reay narrowly eclipsed the Englishman's mark with a 1:29.191secs effort. Monteiro, who gradually built his speed as he worked through his 15 allotted qualifying laps, beat the pair of them on his final run.

Despite their heroics, Hunter-Reay and Manning will not start Sunday's 70-lap race from the second row of the grid as their fastest times were not quick enough to depose Newman-Haas Racing teammates Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais, neither of whom improved on their Friday times in final qualifying.

Falling from second to third thanks to Monteiro's flier, Junqueira will now start directly behind his Championship rival on Sunday with his rookie teammate Bourdais alongside him on the second row. Hunter-Reay and Manning will share row three with Jimmy Vasser, who failed to improve, and Michel Jourdain Jr, who went slightly quicker, on row four.

Behind ninth fastest man Patrick Carpentier, Luis Diaz qualified an impressive tenth fastest in the #25 Walker Racing Reynard-Ford, ahead of Miami winner Mario Dominguez, Mika Salo, Adrian Fernandez and Oriol Servia amongst others.

With Patrick Racing's Servia failing to go faster than on Friday despite setting third fastest time in Saturday practice and winding up only 16th on the grid, the Spaniard's 16-race top-ten qualifying streak came to an end.

 

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