CHAMPCAR/CART: Alex Tagliani, Player''s on target at Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 28, 2000 Seeking to become the first rookie to record points in the first three races of a FedEx CART Championship season, Team Player’s driver Alex Tagliani tuned up in style today by posting the third-fastest...

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 28, 2000 Seeking to become the first rookie to record points in the first three races of a FedEx CART Championship season, Team Player’s driver Alex Tagliani tuned up in style today by posting the third-fastest time during the practice sessions for Sunday’s Rio 200.

Tagliani’s teammate Memo Gidley, who is replacing the injured Patrick Carpentier for a second straight race, recorded the 12th-fastest lap, only eight-tenths of a second behind leader Juan Montoya of Colombia (38.922 seconds, 172.406 mph). Rookie Kenny Bräck was the only other driver with a better time than Tagliani, who went around the 1.864-mile Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway intermediate oval in 39.241 seconds (171.005 mph).

After adding a strong fourth-place finish at Long Beach to his season-opening ninth-place effort at Homestead, Tagliani is bidding to join Jeff Andretti as the only driver to collect points in the first three races of his rookie season in CART. Andretti accomplished the feat in 1991.

“Right from my first few laps this morning, I could see that the Player’s Reynard was really working well,” remarked Tagliani, who was invited to the post-practice news conference for the first time in his CART career by virtue of his third-place clocking. “When the Player’s crew got the car ready, they were right on with their adjustments. When I came into the pits, all they had to do was some fine-tuning.

“The track here didn’t have much grip today but that’s going to change as the weekend goes on and we put some rubber down on the surface. But I have to say that I like this type of track because the braking zones are long and challenging.”

For Gidley, who is preparing for his first CART race on an oval configuration after 11 career starts on a road or street course, today’s practice afforded an opportunity to get familiar with various aspects of the oval layout.

“The Player’s crew tried different set-ups during the session to try to find which one best suited my driving style,” explained Gidley. “Because we focused mainly on finding the right set-up, I never really had the opportunity for a clear lap. But that was part of the strategy today. We never concerned ourselves about whether there was an appropriate time to go for a clear lap, and that enabled me to work on getting a good feel for the car.”

The drivers will return to the track for a third practice session Saturday morning prior to the race’s only qualifying session, which will run from noon to about 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Racing fans can watch the 108-lap Rio 200 live on The Sports Network at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Alex Tagliani , Kenny Brack , Jeff Andretti