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LONG BEACH GRAND PRIX NOTES : The Pressure of Qualifying Proves a Barrier for Some


The pressure of qualifying over a narrow 1.59-mile street course for the fastest field in Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach history sent several cars into the wall Saturday.

Arie Luyendyk, Hiro Matsushita and Lyn St. James all tagged the concrete barriers, with Luyendyk's the most serious accident. When the 1990 Indianapolis 500 winner crashed into the wall at Turn 4, his Lola-Ford Cosworth suffered heavy damage to the left front suspension.

"We were still struggling and now this," he said. "I touched the inside wall and bounced into the outside wall. I needed to run the corner tight and got too close. I'm OK. I was pressing for a good lap, but when a car is reluctant to perform, it is almost impossible to carry it around this track."

Luyendyk will start today's 105-lap race in a backup car.

Matsushita crashed as he was leaving the pits, St. James as she was entering the pits.

"I am not sure what happened," Matsushita said. "Everything went so quickly. The car just snapped to the right. I knew I was going out on cold tires, so I went very easy. I was in fourth gear, low r.p.m., when it just turned."

St. James brushed the wall but was back on the track a few minutes later after her crew replaced a side pod on the Lola.

Nigel Mansell collected a $10,000 bonus for winning his second pole of the season. If he wins today's 167-mile race, he will receive an additional $30,000 for having swept the pole and the race.

The Galles Racing Team has won five consecutive Long Beach Indy car races, but its two drivers, Al Unser Jr. and Danny Sullivan, did not fare too well in qualifying.

Unser, who won four in a row between 1988 and 1991, qualified eighth, and Sullivan, last year's winner, was 12th.

"A valve spring let go and we dropped a valve," Unser said after his car quit during qualifying. "We barely even got going. The car was going good this morning when we got a pretty good idea of which way we should be going. Now we don't have time to see if we were going in the right direction."

Ford-powered cars won the first two Indy car races this year--Mansell in Australia and Mario Andretti at Phoenix--but the results of qualifying indicate that Chevrolet may be catching up.

In the first six positions, three are Fords and three are Chevys. The Chevrolet challengers are Penske teammates Paul Tracy, who is second, Emerson Fittipaldi, third, and Stephan Johansson, who moved up from ninth Friday to fifth on Saturday.

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