Dusty conditions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez prompted a mix of tactics in opening qualifying for the final round of the Champ Car World Series, with several key players holding back on their option tyres.

Although pacesetters Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson admitted to using the softer Bridgestone compound during the half-hour Friday session, others - including third-placed Will Power and veteran Paul Tracy, in eighth - ran only the black-walled primary rubber.

"The 'reds' seemed to be worth about three-quarters of a second in lap time, so I'm pretty happy with how it went," Tracy commented, "I think the track will definitely be faster tomorrow, so I'm pretty happy. If we would have been on reds, I think we would have been top five today."

"We didn't run the softer red tyres today, so I think we can close the gap to Sebastien tomorrow," Power confirmed, "I believe you can gain anywhere between a half a second and a second with the 'reds'."

Nelson Philippe was among those complaining of a lack of grip, but also had to qualify with an unbalanced car after completing fewer laps than anyone. The Frenchman's problems began with a spin in morning practice, which forced him to switch to manual mode on the gearbox software in order to select the correct gear for the jump start. Unfortunately, the gearbox stayed in the manual mode and, while entering the pits, he selected reverse instead of first.

"I'm absolutely disappointed with my session today," Philippe said, "I'm struggling a lot for grip and seem to be drifting around the corners a lot. We will be working very hard tonight because I'm not too happy being two seconds off of the pace when I feel we could be doing better."

Rocketsports' Alex Tagliani and Minardi Team USA duo Robert Doornbos and Dan Clarke all reported making no progress during the afternoon sessions, eventually winding up 16th, twelfth and 13th respectively. Like Tracy, Power and co, Tagliani opted to save both sets of red-walled option tyres for Saturday while the team worked on sorting his car.

"There is not much that I can say," the Canadian sighed, "The car is just not where we need it to be right now. We were off to a positive start this morning, finishing sixth overall, but things just didn't work out as we planned for this afternoon. We will sit down and figure out where things went wrong with the goal of going back out on track tomorrow with a better car."

Doornbos and Clarke both appeared among the leading times in qualifying, but their performances appeared to be something of a mirage as the black-and-red cars drifted back down the order. As has been the case virtually all year, the circuit is new to the Dutchman, so he was playing catch-up early on. Sticking with the black-walled Potenzas, he was quick in the first half of qualifying, but didn't improve as much his rivals when many of them put on new reds.

"It's obviously not where we wanted to be after the first day, but it is still early in the weekend," Doornbos insisted, aware that he can still steal second in the standings, "We're actually closer than it looks, since the times are very tight, but we need to improve, and therefore have some homework to do tonight. We saved our red tyres to use tomorrow and, as we know, there is a lot to be gained with them."

Clarke didn't make as much progress as he had hoped during the day, and appeared frustrated after qualifying.

"We haven't made any significant progress since we arrived here," he fumed, "We had three stabs at it in qualifying but, rather than moving forward, we fell back. We'll work tonight to try and find out what it is that we're missing. We know we're better than this."

Finally, Bruno Junqueira repeated Doornbos' showing, appearing briefly at the sharp end of the times before fading into midfield as others went faster later on.

"It was a tough morning and afternoon for the #19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q team," the Brazilian reported, "but I think we will have the car set-up figured out by tomorrow and get a top five car in second qualifying. We made some adjustments to the gear ratios after the morning session which helped improve the car's overall performance. I was just a couple tenths of a second away from a P7."


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