CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Mercedes Friday Report

Mercedes-Benz FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Date/Session: October 30, 1998 / Day One Practice Moore, Mo and Mercedes Fast at Fontana Mercedes-Benz Powers Three of Top Six Greg...

Mercedes-Benz FedEx Championship Series Report

Race: Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Date/Session: October 30, 1998 / Day One Practice

Moore, Mo and Mercedes Fast at Fontana Mercedes-Benz Powers Three of Top Six

Greg Moore, who led the last season's Marlboro 500, and Mauricio Gugelmin, who set the record for the fastest lap in racing history as he qualified on the pole here a year ago, picked up where they left off in 1997, setting the pace for the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Team during the first day of practice at the two-mile California Speedway.

Moore was third quickest after today's two practice sessions, turning a lap of 31.089 seconds (234.951 mph) in his Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes-Benz. Despite an engine problem late in the closing minutes of the afternoon session, Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes driver Gugelmin was just 0.094 seconds slower and fourth on the time sheets.

Lap times were approximately half a second and 5-6 mph slower than Gugelmin's 1997 pole-winning lap of 30.316 seconds (240.942 mph) thanks in large part to the Handford Device, a high-drag rear wing, which debuted earlier this season at Michigan Speedway for the U.S. 500.

Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate Mark Blundell, who is the defending race champion, turned the sixth-fastest lap of the day in his Motorola Reynard/Mercedes.

In the final event of his rookie CART season, JJ Lehto was 15th, while fellow first-year Champ Car pilot Helio Castro-Neves survived a spin to post the 24th quickest lap time. Marlboro Team Penske drivers Andre Ribeiro and Al Unser Jr. were 17th and 21st, respectively, and Patrick Carpentier was 23rd in the second Player's/Forsythe Racing entry.

Morning practice and qualifying are scheduled for tomorrow. Sunday's 250-lap, 500-mile race will start at 12:30 p.m. local time and will be televised live on ESPN.

Mercedes-Benz Driver Quotes Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 3rd "Today is not bad considering we haven't tested here. We got a good tow around the race track. We knew we had a good car coming in here. At Michigan we ran strong. Here is a similar setup. The only real difference is here there are some bumps in turn one. You have to change the setup a little, but not much. With the Handford wing, this race is going to be just like Michigan."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 4th "We filled the tank up to do a long run, and we were in the middle of that. About three laps before I had the problem, the engine didn't feel quite right, not as sweet. Then it went between turn three and four, which is probably the worst place to have it go. I'm happier with the car than I was at Michigan (Speedway), but we've still got a lot of work to do."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 6th "We're not going too bad. Obviously, whoever gets the tow and has the gearing to go with it gets the quick lap times. But we're working to make our car good in traffic. Our car didn't work well in traffic at Michigan (Speedway), and that's not what you want for the race."

JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 15th "We had a big handling problem with the primary car, but the backup car was working decently, so I was able to go like I wanted to. We lost a lot of time with little problems today, and the car's still a little bit nervous over the bumps. Hopefully, we'll run clean and get done tomorrow morning what we were hoping to do today. But I think the qualifying times are going to be a lot slower. These guys doing 235 (mph-laps) are just getting an incredible tow."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 17th "We had a good start to our Marlboro 500 weekend. The car is improving in each session, and we're gaining grip. At these kinds of tracks, the best strategy is to slowly work on setting up the car to get the best balance for the race. We were in the top ten this afternoon, so hopefully we'll be in the top-five tomorrow. The most important thing is that we are making progress with the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 21st "The whole team has been working really hard to get ready for this weekend, and we were able to try a number of things with the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes during today's sessions. we had the car working well in Michigan, and Andre ran well today, so we're optimistic about qualifying and the race."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 23rd "We didn't get much of a tow. I got behind Tony Kanaan, but I passed him pretty quickly. We were consistent even in traffic, which is good. Who gets the best tow is the one who is going to be number one. We didn't get a tow."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16, Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear - 24th "I was coming into the pit lane and tried to shift down through the gears, but it went from fourth gear to second gear, locked up the wheels, and I spun. We had some trouble with the gears before. We thought we fixed it, but obviously we didn't. Thank God I didn't hit anything. It's much better to have this problem coming into the pits than it is to have it out by the wall."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske