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Showers ensure Kanaan's pole spot

By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002

MIAMI -- Tony Kanaan clinched the pole for today's Grand Prix of the Americas without even putting his Honda/Lola in gear Saturday. With intermittent showers soaking the track, he sat on his Friday one-lap qualifying speed of 81.503 mph.

Scott Dixon (Toyota/Lola), who finished second to Kanaan at 81.264 mph in Friday's provisional qualifying, sealed his position with Saturday's best lap of 71.550 mph.

"I wanted to run," Kanaan said. "Obviously (team owner Morris Nunn) didn't let me. I think it was a smart decision. ... I was going to try to go as quick as I could to see, you know, just in case something happened (today), some weather problems.

"But this is my hometown. I kind of control the weather a little bit. I guess (today) is going to be dry."

Kanaan and fellow Brazilians Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira and Christian Fittipaldi live in the Miami area, Kanaan two blocks from the track.

PIRRO, BIELA WIN LE MANS RACE: Audi teammates Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela won the IMSA-sanctioned American LeMans Challenge, the first race of the weekend and their third win this season. They finished 14.021 seconds ahead of Cadillac's Max Angelelli and J.J. Lehto.

The winners made it through 122 laps in 2 hours, 46 minutes, 3.793 seconds with one fuel stop and no tire changes. Audi clinched its third consecutive ALMS manufacturer's title.

"We didn't count on anything because a race like this is so unpredictable," Pirro said. "We were afraid of changing on a yellow because we have screwed up races when we changed the wrong tires on a yellow."

BIG NAME: The winner of today's Grand Prix of the Americas will receive the inaugural Ralph Sanchez Cup honoring the promoter who founded the downtown Miami Grand Prix in 1983. Ralph Sanchez solidified his legacy at that race when a deluge ended it after 27 of the scheduled 168 laps. Asked by IMSA president John Bishop what percentage of the prize money should be distributed, Sanchez told him to pay all of it.

PIT STOPS: Saturday morning's rain canceled qualifying for the Trans Am race scheduled to follow today's grand prix. The starting grid was determined by the series point standings, with Boris Said (Panoz Esperante) and Paul Gentilozzi (Jaguar XKR) in the top two positions. ... The grand prix plans called for a 1.57-mile track, but official measurements determined it was 1.387 miles.

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