Defending Lexmark Indy 300 winner Mario Dominguez will go into Saturday's final qualifying session in Surfers Paradise tenth on the grid despite missing one of Friday's two practice sessions when he got a little too close to one of the unforgiving concrete walls that line the 2.795-mile Australian street circuit.

The Mexican born driver had to sit out the second, quicker practice session of the day after damaging his primary Herdez Competition Lola-Ford shortly after setting ninth fastest time in the day's first practice period.

Despite having to continue working on a comfortable set-up for the #55 Herdez Lola-Ford during Friday's 40-minute provisional qualifying session, Dominguez lowered his best time to 1:35.017secs, more than two seconds slower than provisional polesitter Bruno Junqueira but still quick enough to put him inside the top ten once Alex Tagliani's times had been disallowed for failing post-qualifying technical inspection.

"I didn't get a lot of laps in today because I brushed the wall during the morning but we seem to have made good progress with the car overall," said Dominguez, who has been one of the revelations of the year on street circuits. "We're obviously not happy with 10th but I don't think we're that far off. We'll sit down with the engineers tonight and figure out what we need to do - I think a few tweaks here and there could make a big difference for tomorrow.

With Dominguez struggling for most of the day it was left to the returning Roberto Moreno to carry the Herdez flag down under for after letting Roberto Gonzalez drive his #4 Lola-Ford at the last round in Mexico City, the 2001 Lexmark Indy 300 pole winner signalled his return with a fastest qualifying lap of 1:34.313secs. That time was good enogh for a place on the third row of the adjusted provisional grid behind Junqueira, his Newman-Haas teammate Sebastien Bourdais and former winners Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser.

"We had two pretty good runs in qualifying," stated the veteran Brazilian. "On the first, we really made the most of the tires and the car and were fifth at the end of that stint. For the second run we made some changes which gave us better balance but we lost some overall grip and ended up slower. But we've made a huge improvement from this morning to qualifying.

"A lot of that is me getting used to the new chicane style; when I was here the last time you couldn't cut the chicanes at all - now you have to go for it through each one. We need to learn from what we did today, do a little fine-tuning, and try to find the sweet spot for tomorrow."



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