CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Diary, Friday, Day Four

Insider Diary, Day Four By Ron Richards, CART Vice Surfers Paradise, AUS (October 16, 1998) Day Four We might be half a world away in the Land Down Under but some things are always the same on the Champ Car circuit. One of those is...

Insider Diary, Day Four By Ron Richards, CART Vice

Surfers Paradise, AUS (October 16, 1998)

Day Four

We might be half a world away in the Land Down Under but some things are always the same on the Champ Car circuit.

One of those is that things begin getting really serious each Friday of a race weekend. And they did just that as practice and qualifying began for the Honda Indy in Surfers Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast.

You can read about the results of qualifying elsewhere, but it was Alex Zanardi that walked away with the fastest effort during provisional qualifying runs, edging the red-hot Dario Franchitti, who has won three of the last four FedEx Championship Series races, by a very small margin. Gil de Ferran was third.

The crowd here Friday was the biggest for the day that they've had in the eight-year history of the Champ Car event - just over 48,000 around the 2.795-mile street circuit. That made the two-day total more than 75,000. All seats for the event are sold and not many general admission passes remain available for Sunday's race. Event organizers expect the four-day weekend attendance to total just over 250,000 as fair weather with temperatures in the high 70s are expected both Saturday and Sunday.

As I've noted the past couple of days, the off-track activities are extensive here on the Gold Coast and, after Friday's on-track activities ended, drivers went in a number of directions to various functions.

Honda hosted a very nice event Friday evening at the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the track, showcasing its drivers to key clients, guests and media.

The weekend's biggest function was conducted Friday night, too, at Conrad Jupiters Hotel and Casino. More than 900 people attended the black tie function which benefited local charities and showcased several Champ Car drivers and officials. Richie Hearn, Michel Jourdain, Jr., Al Unser, Jr., defending Honda Indy champion Scott Pruett, Max Papis, who continued to impress on the track Friday by qualifying eighth, and Arnd Meier, were on hand and featured during the night's activities. Later, Motown group the Temptations performed and wowed the mainly baby boomer crowd.

During the course of the evening, Team KOOL Green owner Barry Green and his brother, Kim, stopped by to recount their week-and-a-half since Franchitti won the inaugural Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. They left immediately after Houston to return to their native country where they sailed along with their wives in the Pacific around the northeast coast of Australia. They looked very refreshed and couldn't say enough good things about having the opportunity to spend time in their homeland. Obviously, both Franchitti and Paul Tracy would love to win on their owner's home turf Sunday.

It only gets faster from here on out and that should be reflected in the times you see Saturday. Twenty drivers broke the track record held by ex-Champ Car title holder Nigel Mansell. More than 70 percent of the track surface has been re-surfaced since we were here 18 months ago, accounting for much of the increase in speeds.

Will Zanardi be able to hold onto the pole? We'll know in just a few hours.

Til tomorrow, G'day.

Source: CART Online

------------------------ Internet Access Australia------------------------ --- IAA is MNI's ISP of choice at the '98 Gold Coast Indy --- ---- Melbourne -- Tel. 03 9686 6677 -- Fax 03 9686 6644 ----- ------------------ http://www.iaccess.com.au ---------------------

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Nigel Mansell , Scott Pruett , Richie Hearn , Barry Green , Al Unser , Michel Jourdain