Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves completed more than 300 miles of testing with the 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard at Sebring Raceway last week. The test, originally scheduled for December 5-6, ended up being extended until the 7th after the team encountered some initial "teething problems" with the new car on the second day of the test. At this point, the Team opted to spend the second afternoon working on the problem rather than using another test day (if a Team completes less than 50 miles of testing on a single day it is not counted as a test day - see testing rules below) and returned on Thursday for a full day of testing.
"We had a slight mechanical problem on Wednesday and opted to stop the test and address the issue rather than use a full day of testing," said Penske Racing President Tim Cindric. "With the new 2001 testing rules it is imperative to optimize each testing day and use your time wisely to obtain the best results. We will return to Sebring next week and Gil (de Ferran) will get his first run in the new car."
Nevertheless, Castroneves posted the quickest time of the shortened day on the 6th and the quickest time on the 7th. Other teams testing with Marlboro Team Penske over the three-day period were Team Rahal (Max Papis), Team Green (Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti), Patrick Racing (Jimmy Vasser), Sigma Racing (Max Wilson) and PacWest Racing (Mauricio Gugelmin and Scott Dixon).
"We're pleased with the results of our first test with the new car, it went as smooth as a mid-season test" said Penske Racing Team Manager Tom Wurtz. "We use these first new car tests to check out any "glitches" with the new car, see how it runs and get the drivers comfortable all of which we were able to accomplish in our time at Sebring. Any problem areas that we had anticipated turned out to be easily fixed. Helio did a good job and provided some helpful feedback, which enabled us to learn a lot about the 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard and make some big changes that, will help us at the next test. The new Honda engine ran well without missing a beat which gave the Honda engineers plenty of track time to focus on their development program."
"It felt great to get back into the racecar after having a few weeks off," said Castroneves. "Having already had one year with Marlboro Team Penske, I am much more comfortable with the Team and the equipment than I was at this time last year. The car felt strong and I'm really looking forward to continuing our testing and getting ready for the new season."
At the end of the 2000 season Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) announced the following new testing rules for 2001:
1) In-Season Testing will be eliminated. The following are exceptions to this rule:
Tire testing will be accepted in extraordinary circumstances.
Three days allocated for each engine manufacturer.
2) Out-of-Season Testing will be defined as "End-of-Season blackout to March 1st":
Total of ten days per entry.
14 days for 1 car teams
20 days for 2 car teams
30 days for a 3 car team.
3) New Points:
Testing is banned at any circuit outside of the Continental United States.
Each tire manufacturer shall provide CART with an accounting of the number of tires provided to each team on a periodic basis.
CART will maintain a record of all testing done by each entrant in the course of a season and will make that record public.
Three sets of tires for each entrant for the "Event Practice Day."
Damaged tires on Friday may be replaced but will be replaced out of that teams normal replacement allotment.
The 50-mile rule will remain the same, which is if a Team runs less than 50 miles at a test, it is not considered a test day.
The honors for CART FedEx Champion Gil de Ferran continue to mount following his successful 2000 season. In addition to winning his first FedEx Series Championship, and Team Penske's record-setting tenth National Championship, de Ferran also captured the Team's long-awaited 100th win (Nazareth Speedway) and went on to break the World's Closed Course Speed Record with a qualifying lap of 241.428 mph at the season-ending Marlboro 500. His stellar season, combined with the performance of teammate Helio Castroneves, was paramount in the Renaissance of Marlboro Team Penske and returning the Team to its position atop the CART Series.
After being nominated as "Driver of the Year" for the 2000 ESPY Awards last week, de Ferran has now been named to the First Team on the Millennium All-America Auto Racing Team as selected by the American Auto Racing Writer and Broadcasting Association (AARWBA). De Ferran joins 11 other drivers on the Team including Bobby Labonte, John Force, Steve Kinser and Tony Stewart. The Team will be honored at AARWBA's annual awards ceremony scheduled for January 12th in Pomona, California.
It is the second time de Ferran has been named an AARWBA All-American and the first time he has been named to the First Team. He was originally named an All-American following his rookie season in 1995.