Both Jaguar R3s ran faultlessly over the qualifying hour and despite a late charge from David Coulthard, Irvine's final timed lap improved further to keep him ahead of the McLaren. With de la Rosa starting from right behind the McLarens, the Jaguar R3s are well placed to score more points from the race tomorrow, although the punishing nature of the Monza circuit will make reliability a bigger concern than normal for all runners.
Niki Lauda - CEO and Team Principal - stated: "A fantastic performance and testament to everyone at Jaguar Racing who have all worked tirelessly to find the improvements that we are now benefiting from. Credit must also go to Eddie and Pedro for their very solid performances. Both drivers drove faultlessly today and made progressive improvements to their lap times, albeit under considerable pressure from the runners around them.
"In Pedro's case, Jacques Villeneuve was pushing him very hard indeed and in the end, I think less than two-tenths separates them. Eddie's battle with David Coulthard went right to the bitter end and despite a late charge from DC, Eddie went one better and was rewarded with a place on the third row for tomorrow's race.
"We have been chipping away all season in an effort to correct the issues on the Jaguar R3 and over the past few weeks, we have begun seeing some very encouraging signs of competitiveness. The team produced a very solid all-around performance at the last race in Spa and we now have the opportunity to go one better tomorrow. Getting through the first chicane is always the challenge at Monza and once through, the reliability aspect will come into play.
"This circuit is very tough on engines and brakes and reaching the finishing line is an achievement in itself. The pace of the Jaguar R3 usually tends to be better in race trim than qualifying and suffice to say that everyone at Jaguar Racing is very excited at the prospect of tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix."
Irvine overcame minor technical problems to record his sixth place. "There has been a lot of work undertaken on the Jaguar R3 and I have to say, there is little to criticise today. The balance of the car was very good, the new qualifying engine from Cosworth made a significant difference and combined with a low downforce configuration, we are very much on the pace, especially when you consider where we were not too long ago," he said.
"My first two runs were slightly compromised by a gear-change problem but it was fixed for the last two runs. I was caught in a battle right between the two McLarens and while getting ahead of Coulthard was always possible, catching Raikkonen was always going to be tough. Getting points is more than a possibility tomorrow, but it's far from a formality.
"We have always suffered from a mid-corner understeer problem but that's no longer the case. I can now attack the corners very aggressively and get straight onto the power. The Jaguar R3 feels like a very different animal to the one we started the season with. It feels like a real racing car now and I cannot wait to take it racing tomorrow."
His Spanish team mate was just thrilled with their achievement. "The car was very quick today and to have got both Jaguars into the top eight is simply fantastic for the team!" he exclaimed. "An awful lot of work has been going on behind the scenes and at our test at Monza last week, we got some very encouraging signs that have manifested themselves today.
"The balance of the car is very good and combined with Michelin rubber and Cosworth's new qualifying engine, the whole package is now delivering results. The aim now is to translate this into championship points and assuming we are reliable, there is little to stop us from putting on a good show tomorrow.
"The team has done an excellent job in turning around a difficult season and it would be great to reward them with points tomorrow."
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen later had his fastest qualifying time deleted by the Stewards of the Meeting for "causing a collision contrary to Article 53 of the sporting regulations".
This demoted the Finn to sixth place, in turn promoting Irvine to fifth.