INDIANAPOLIS, USA, September 28, 2002 -- Perhaps he derived some additional inspiration from the hard-charging drivers he had witnessed in action at a USAC Midget race on Friday evening, but Mark Webber this afternoon put in a storming performance...
INDIANAPOLIS, USA, September 28, 2002 -- Perhaps he derived some additional inspiration from the hard-charging drivers he had witnessed in action at a USAC Midget race on Friday evening, but Mark Webber this afternoon put in a storming performance during qualifying for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix. Despite losing the second half of Saturday's morning practice session to a gearbox input shaft problem that necessitated an engine and gearbox change, the KL Minardi Asiatech driver quickly got down to business in the high-pressure, one-hour qualifying session. A series of four impressive runs on a track that had clearly lost grip as the ambient temperature rose culminated in a fastest lap of 1 min 13.128 secs, allowing Webber to claim a well-deserved 18th position on the grid. Team mate, Alex Yoong, was also very much on the pace and, despite a spin on his second run of the afternoon, recorded a time only 0.681 secs shy of Webber's best and 3.019 secs away from the pole position time.
"This was the most difficult qualifying session of the year for us in terms of getting what we wanted from the car. Normally, we have a good grip on things by the time we go into qualifying. Due to the problem we had in practice, though, it meant the last time we ran on new tyres before qualifying was at 9:30 this morning, and the track conditions changed completely in between. It really was a different race track this afternoon, and although I would have liked to qualify in the 1-minute-12-second-bracket, under the circumstances, the result was good. It is also a great tribute to the guys that we start ahead of Salo's Toyota tomorrow, bearing in mind they did a complete engine and gearbox change between practice and qualifying."
"It was a mixed session for me, really. I thought I could have out-qualified Mark today, or at least matched his time. I felt good in the car and had a good first run. I tried to go a bit quicker in the second run, but the car got on the grass, which was very slippery, slid and hit the barriers. I had two more runs, but as I was easily inside the 107 per cent qualifying threshold and it would have taken time to prepare the spare car, we decided it would be best to save the last two set of tyres in order to use them in the race tomorrow. "
PAUL STODDART, Team Principal
"A solid effort from both KL Minardi Asiatech drivers in today's qualifying session sees them line up in 18th and 20th places for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix. Despite having only one flying lap, Alex set a competitive time that ensured he qualified comfortably for the race, while Mark, who was effectively driving a completely different car compared with this morning due to an engine and gearbox change, recorded a blistering time on his final run and starts from a well-deserved P18. It's worth bearing in mind that both drivers qualified less than two seconds away from a top-10 position today, and that definitely bodes well for the race."
THE ASIATECH VIEW
This has been another problem-free day for the Asiatech engines rewarded by an excellent qualifying performance from Mark Webber.
Chassis: PS02/03 (No 22)
Fastest lap: 1 min 13.809 secs
Chassis: PS02/04 (No 23)
Fastest lap: 1 min 13.128 secs
PS02/01 -- spare