Castroneves was one of four Brazilians to qualify in the top five
Castroneves captures CART pole

LONG BEACH, California, April 7 (AFP) - Brazil's Helio Castroneves waited until the final lap of Saturday's qualifying session before claiming the pole for the Championship Auto Racing Teams Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Castroneves won the 128th pole by Penske Racing in 34 CART seasons by capturing the top spot on the starting grid for Sunday's race, 82 laps over a 1.96-mile temporary street couurse over a total of 161 miles.

Castroneves was one of four Brazilians to qualify in the top five. He put his Honda-powered Reynard on the inside of the front row for the fifth time in his career with a speed of 103.343 mph.

"I'm very happy to have won the pole considering we had a rough start to the weekend," Castroneves said. "Yesterday we tried to find the right set-up and this morning we had to start all over because of the weather.

"The track got much better this afternoon and the car set-up was great for both dry and wet conditions. I was one of the last ones out."

Track conditions improved for the later qualifiers after a brief rain shower dropped over the circuit.

Kenny Brack of Sweden, the 2000 Rookie of the Year, was bumped off by Castroneves and will start second in a Cosworth-powered Lola. Brack covered the layout in 1:09.807.

Tony Kanaan, season-opener winner Cristiano da Matta and defending series champion Gil de Ferran rounded out the top five.

De Ferran still holds the Long Beach qualifying record set last year with a lap of 67.494 seconds.

Castroneves, 25, has finished in the points in six straight races dating to last year, including an eighth place finish at last month's season-opening race in Mexico.

He won three races and three poles last year, when he was second to Canada's Paul Tracy here. Tracy, who stormed from 17th place to win at Long Beach in 2000, qualified 12th.

Tracy made his CART debut at Long Beach in 1991 and claimed his first career win two years later. He started 2001 with a strong third in Mexico.