BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 12, 2001) - Five drivers, led by defending FedEx Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske, engaged in a successful CART Select Test on Tuesday at Michigan Speedway in which laps speeds were sufficiently reduced...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 12, 2001) - Five drivers, led by defending FedEx Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske, engaged in a successful CART Select Test on Tuesday at Michigan Speedway in which laps speeds were sufficiently reduced from last year as a result of newly mandated superspeedway engine and aerodynamic changes.
De Ferran, driving a Marlboro Honda Reynard, ran a top lap of 224.278 miles per hour in the five-hour session, and was the only driver among the group of Christian Fittipaldi of Newman/Haas Racing, Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green, Max Papis of Team Rahal and Bryan Herta of Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing who posted a lap above the 222-mph range. Trap speeds on the front straight were routinely in the 222-mph range as well.
All three engine manufacturers - Ford, Honda and Toyota - as well as both chassis manufacturers - Lola and Reynard - were represented in the CART Select Test. All the Champ Cars utilized Firestone tires, the Official Tire of CART.
"I spoke with a lot of the guys throughout the day and, by and large, today was a successful day," CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel said. "The guys were able to tune the cars with the new wing package, we were able to reduce speeds and the driveability of the cars appears good. We expect the speeds to increase some by race weekend, but ultimately the speeds should be down from last year."
De Ferran's lap was more than 10 mph slower than last year's pole-winning speed of 234.949 mph by Team KOOL Green driver Paul Tracy as a result of the mandated changes in preparation for the July 22 Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota at the two-mile superspeedway.
The engine change involved a reduction of the maximum manifold pressure (boost) from the current standard of 37 inches to 36 in an effort to contain power output. On the aerodynamic side, the backplate on the Handford MkI device, located on the rear wing, was extended downward an additional three inches, increasing it to nine inches in length, for a reduction in downforce and creating more drag to slow speeds. The changes also will be effect for the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota set for Nov. 4 at California Speedway.
De Ferran also posted the second-fastest lap at 222.188 mph among the 89 he completed in the session.
"It's always good to evaluate something before you make it definite and from that standpoint it [the test] was definitely very beneficial," de Ferran said. "The speeds certainly dropped a bit and that was a good thing. We were relatively satisfied with what we were able to accomplish today."
Fittipaldi completed a session-high 106 laps and recorded a top lap of 221.955 mph in the Kmart Toyota Lola.
"I think the important thing is that we killed some doubts about the speeds here with this test," Fittipaldi said. "The car feels the same to me but slower, which is good."
Franchitti had a top lap of 220.406 mph among the 67 he completed in the KOOL Honda Reynard.
"From CART's perspective, it was a very successful test," Franchitti said. "This was an exercise in slowing down the cars and it was successful. If we did not do this test, I think the anticipated speeds [for the race] would have been much higher because the cars are even more efficient this year both aerodynamically and engine wise."
Papis, driving the Miller Lite Ford Lola, was second to Fittipaldi in laps completed, running 96 with a top lap of 219.740 mph.
"It was an evaluation test and the number on the dashboard showed we were slower than last year," Papis said. "You have to understand the reason we were here was to slow speeds and we achieved that today."
Herta completed 83 laps and had a best lap of 219.727 mph in the Indeck Ford Reynard.
"It was definitely a productive test and we learned quite a bit today," Herta said. "Slowing the cars down was one of the things CART was concerned with and we did that today. I give it a thumbs up."
The session was scheduled to be split into two 2 ½-hour sessions but high winds in the morning caused a delay of more than two hours. The test, which was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET, began at approximately 11:30 a.m. and ran until the originally scheduled conclusion time of 4:30 p.m. The weather improved dramatically with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. The track temperature, recorded by Firestone, was 123 degrees during the final half-hour of the session.
The Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota has been one of the most exciting FedEx Championship Series events in recent years. Last year's 250-lap race produced 52 lead changes among 10 drivers and a dramatic shootout between Michael Andretti and Juan Montoya, who won by a scant .040 seconds. Tickets are available for this season's event at 1-800-354-1010.
The FedEx Championship Series returns to action this weekend with the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit at The Raceway on Belle Isle set for Friday-Sunday, Round 7 of 21 in the series championship. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the largest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.