Originally created 04/09/00

Montoya has eye on history

NAZARETH, Pa. -- Now that Juan Montoya has given Toyota its second CART pole, he has his sights set on putting the engine manufacturer in the winner's circle for the first time.

"It will be great if we win with the Toyota, but I don't feel any more pressure," Montoya said Saturday after locking up the top starting spot for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix for the second year in a row. "Like when we ran here last year, I'm just going to give it my best."

The only previous pole in Toyota's five years of CART racing came when Scott Pruett started up front in the 1999 season finale at Fontana, Calif. The best Toyota finishes were fourths in this race last year by Christiano da Matta and last month by Montoya teammate Jimmy Vasser in the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix.

"Maybe we're a step ahead of everyone," said Montoya, who took the pole for today's race by circling the .946-mile Nazareth Speedway oval in 19.255 seconds, going 176.868 mph. "We had a good test here last month."

Montoya's pole and Nazareth victory last year came with a Honda-powered Reynard, the combination that gave him the series championship. It was an unprecedented fourth straight title for Chip Ganassi's team.

Still, Ganassi defied logic and changed not only his engine. He also went to Lola for his new chassis.

"It's nice to have the small victory to reinforce the decisions we made for our chassis and engine manufacturers," he said. "The next victory for us will be big -- a race."

Few in the sport expect Ganassi's cars to go winless this year, but reliability remains an issue. Montoya started second at the Marlboro Grand Prix in Homestead, Fla., and led the first 21 laps before blowing his engine.

But Vasser, who gave Ganassi the first of his championships in 1996, ran strong throughout the race. He was one of nine cars on the lead lap, finishing 4.6 seconds behind winner Max Papis.

Vasser was extremely fast at the start of his qualifying run Saturday, but shut down because of a problem. Still, he wound up 11th on the grid.

"I came through turn three and something let go on the car," he said. "I don't know what the failure was."

The other top qualifiers -- Christian Fittipaldi, Helio Castro-Neves and Paul Tracy -- who battled a strong headwind on the backstretch, went faster on their second laps. Montoya didn't need one. He shut down after his first, relegating the Ford-Lola of Fittipaldi to the outside of the front row.

Montoya bristled somewhat when it was suggested that everything comes easily to him.

"You've got to work hard for it," he said. "You've got a job, to make the car drive and go quick. We're doing a better job than the rest of the people. That's why we've won four championships and are going for five."


With one minute left in the one-hour qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix, defending champion Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher alternated quick laps in a dramatic battle for the pole.

At the end of their thrilling duel, which left thousands of Ferrari fans stunned, Hakkinen won by .09 seconds, reviving McLaren hopes for a first season victory.

Although winning his third consecutive pole, Hakkinen still is without a championship point after consecutive flops in Australia and Brazil. He did not finish either race because of engine problems.

His British teammate, David Coulthard, who was third in qualifying, only .3 seconds back, also is pointless. He did not finish in Australia and was disqualified after placing second in Brazil because of the non-conformity of the front wing of his McLaren car.

It was the 23rd pole in the past 35 races for Hakkinen, giving him a career total of 24. That lifted the Finn one pole ahead of Schumacher, in a sixth-place tie with Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet on the all-time list.

The 1-2 qualifying finish put Hakkinen and Schumacher in the front row of the starting grid for today's race.

Coulthard will start from the second row along with Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari's newly signed Brazilian driver.


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