By Kristian Steenstrup - Motorsport.com Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia - Cristiano da Matta had a successful morning's work here at the Gold Coast and was able to take advantage of the Toyota engine in going fastest of all in the ...
By Kristian Steenstrup - Motorsport.com
Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia - Cristiano da Matta had a successful morning's work here at the Gold Coast and was able to take advantage of the Toyota engine in going fastest of all in the morning warmup despite only having qualified 10th the day before.
Unlike the previous two days, Sunday dawned with the type of weather the local promoters were hoping to showcase to the world audience. Clear blue skies and a light breeze greeted the teams. With many of the cars having limited track time in he last two days with the wet mornings and the many red flags stoppages in the previous afternoon's most of the teams were keen to get out early on the track in the warm up. Virtually the whole field circulated on an initial installation lap to ensure that the previous evenings alterations of cars did not hold any surprises for them. A few drivers such as Helio Castroneves had more work to do than most as they had not got the momentum going all weekend because of mechanical ailments on the first day.
Mark Blundell provided an early distraction going straight on into the runoff area at 'Conrad Jupiters' corner without damage, having understeered into the corner with a locked brake. He realised it was a choice between the wall or escape road in time and chose the later. Christian Fittipaldi's car was back in competitive form today after his accident late in yesterday's session. With 15 minutes run in the session he was up to 5th fastest time proving that all was back in order for him and the hard worked Newman-Haas team which also had to do some work yesterday on Michael Andretti's car which had a gearbox fail late in the qualifying session.
Jason Bright continued to show a mature approach to his CART debut by circulating without incident in the session and being better than last in the warmup times. This was in contrast to, arguably his closest competitor, Luiz Garcia Jr. who went down the runoff area at the Conrad Jupiter's corner, albeit without damage.
No further incidents in this session occurred and the happiest man of all was Cristiano da Matta. He was positioned at the top of the times, which bodes well for both him and the other Toyota runners. From the results here and in Houston it would be a fair statement that Honda dominance of street courses is at an end. While the pendulum has not swung fully towards Toyota it is more evenly balanced than it has been for a long time. Dario Franchitti was next fastest in the session in his Honda powered car and Christian Fittipaldi's Ford powered Lola made it three engines in the top three positions with his third fastest time.
Other notable times from the session were Juan Montoya with 6th fastest and no reported problems, Helio Castroneves still not quite up where he should be with 11th fastest and his Penske team mate Gil De Ferran in even worse shape with a time only good enough for 21st on the list.
By contrast Jason Bright acquitted himself well to get the 19th fastest time of the session and will no doubt be hoping to carry that pace into the race this afternoon. Gil de Ferran and the Penske team will be concerned, but with their professional approach it is unlikely that the lack of pace will carry forward to the afternoon.