Friday 16 October Alex Zanardi wins Provisional Pole Position Christine Hogan - Motorsport News International In bright sunshine, under an almost cloudless sky in Surfers Paradise, Australia, Alex Zanardi won provisional pole from Dario ...
Friday 16 October
Alex Zanardi wins Provisional Pole Position Christine Hogan - Motorsport News International
In bright sunshine, under an almost cloudless sky in Surfers Paradise, Australia, Alex Zanardi won provisional pole from Dario Franchitti and Gil de Ferran. Record crowds showed up to watch today's qualifying session. At the end of the day, the gates showed an attendance of 48,812 race fans, up more than 3,000 from last year. It was a warm afternoon with a track temperature of 123F and an ambient temperature of 87F.
Zanardi and Papis were the first two drivers on the track. After the first 5 minutes, the fastest drivers were Paul Tracy with a 1:34.945, Greg Moore with 1:35.267 and Jimmy Vasser with 1:35.944.
The first qualifying session saw several drivers cutting the grass at turn 5, including Bobby Rahal who locked up and slid into the corner, barely recovering in time to cut across the grass, and Michael Andretti who almost lost it on the exit.
10 minutes into the session Alex Zanardi was leading the standings in his secondary car with an official new track qualifying record of 1:33.211. Nine other drivers out of the 14 Group 1 qualifiers had also surpassed Mansell's previous record at this point. Second fastest was Gil de Ferran with 1:33.676 followed by Bryan Herta with 1:33.694.
The only red flag of the session came out for 8 minutes after 11 minutes of running under green. Adrian Fernandez made hard contact with the wall between turns 7 and 8. He was unharmed, but the right front suspension suffered severe damage. His crew started preparing his second car, while he sat out his 8-minute penalty.
Five minutes from the end of the session, the fastest driver was still Alex Zanardi in his X car, his time unchanged. In second place was Max Papis with a 1:33.375 followed by Gil de Ferran with a 1:33.422. Greg Moore also slid at turn 5, taking a hard ride across the grass, but continuing at a slower speed back to the pit lane.
Just before the end of the session, Alex Zanardi beat his new track record two laps in succession, first with a 1:32.401, and then a 1:32.310 to take provisional pole. In second place was Dario Franchitti with 1:32.781, with Gil de Ferran in third on 1:32.851. Thirteen of the fourteen Group 1 qualifiers set times faster than Nigel Mansell's 1994 track qualifying record of 1:34.877.
Patrick Carpentier was the first Group 2 qualifier to take to the track, in a session that was dominated by Scott Pruett. Michel Jourdain, Jr. was the first to spin, down at turn 12, with no apparent damage to the car. At around the same time, Arnd Meier was shown the black flag due to fluid spraying from the back of his car.
The early leaders of the session were Scott Pruett and Helio Castro-Neves followed by Patrick Carpentier. Scott Pruett caused the first red flag of the session, 7 minutes in, by sliding nose-first into the tire wall at turn 11. After some assistance from the safety workers, he was able to continue on to the pits under his own power. The session got under way again after just 4 minutes. Mark Blundell briefly topped the leader- board as Scott Pruett sat out his 8-minute penalty.
The second qualifying session saw a few other minor incidents. Mauricio Gugelmin spun at turn 3 with no apparent damage, and a number of drivers including Sospiri and Castro-Neves cut the chicane at turn 7. Michel Jourdain, Jr. took a particularly hard ride across turn 7 towards the end of the session, but sustained no apparent damage to the car.
The session ended two minutes prematurely when Al Unser, Jr. spun at turn 8, hit the wall, damaged the right front tire and stalled on the track. The red flag came out, immediately followed by the checkered flag. Scott Pruett topped the leader-board for this session with a 1:33.236, which put him in 6th place overall. He was followed by Mark Blundell (1:33.236, 12th overall) and Castro-Neves (1:34.012, 16th overall).
In the post-qualifying press conference Alex Zanardi said that he was very happy with the car, but he felt there were improvements that could be made for Saturday qualifying. He said that the X car, which is a cross between this year's setup and last year's was working better for him at this track. He remarked that he wanted a pole position very badly as he has not had one so far this season. He predicted that the pole time will be a second or two below his provisional pole time. When asked a number of questions about Formula 1 vs. CART he said that they are both top series, but that he feels that CART is "the Olympics of motor racing" and that Formula 1 drivers would be surprised by how difficult the ovals are. He said that he is looking forward to participating in a different, but still challenging, series next year.
Dario Franchitti said that they had to work harder than they normally do on a road course to get a good setup. The car was more to his liking this afternoon than it was this morning and he thinks that the pole time is in the car. He expects to be pushing for a faster time tomorrow, as will the rest of the field. When asked about Formula 1, he said that Formula 1 has always been his dream and that if he were offered a competitive drive where he had a chance of winning, then he would take it, but that he would not drive in an un-competitive car "just to make up the numbers".
Gil de Ferran said that they were struggling with a lack of traction in the morning, but the car was working better in the afternoon. He hopes to be in the top three tomorrow. When asked about Formula 1, he said that he did not necessarily want to drive in F1, and that he was happy driving in the CART series.
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