Good Morning from the rain-drenched streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia for the opening day of practice and qualifying for Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Honda Indy 300! This morning's weather has greeted the early arrivals...
Good Morning from the rain-drenched streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia for the opening day of practice and qualifying for Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Honda Indy 300! This morning's weather has greeted the early arrivals to the 18-turn 2.795-mile temporary street course with cool temperatures and occluded skies. A series of low pressure systems are sweeping in from the Tasmanian Sea southwest of Oz, producing very unpredictable weather for the Friday and Saturday Champ Car sessions. But, on the road and street courses of the FedEx Championship Series, the show goes on, rain or shine. Temperatures are expected to peak in the low-eighties by the Green Flag for today's Provisional Qualifying sessions, if the predicted sunshine ever shows up. Sunday's weather sounds much more favorable to produce the bikinis the Gold Coast is well-known for, as well as the dry surface the competitors crave for traction on the twisting Surfers Paradise course.
The CART on-track schedule features the weekend's first practice session taking the Green Flag at 10:30 a.m. This full-field session will last 90 minutes. At 2:30 p.m., the FedEx Championship Series teams will again take to the track for the split-group provisional qualifying session with the fastest drivers from the previous road/street course ( Houston, Texas) comprising Group Two. The Champ Car drivers will be chasing the Surfer's Paradise track-qualifying record of 109.724 mph; 176.546 kph; (1:32.703) set by DARIO FRANCHITTI in 1999. Each split-session provisional qualifying Group will be on-track for 30 minutes with a 15-minute break between the two groups' efforts. Saturday's schedule has the Champ Cars again on track for practice from 10 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. with the final round of CART qualifying scheduled from 1:45 p.m. to 3 p.m. This final qualifying session will again be in the split-group format with the fastest drivers from Friday's provisional qualifying comprising Group Two. Again, each group will be on-track for 30 minutes with a 15-minute break between the two Groups. Sunday's schedule has the traditional 30-minute warm-up beginning at 10 a.m. followed by the Green Flag for the 65-lap, 181.675-mile, 292.315 kilometer Honda Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (All times are local.) On hand for your media needs from Championship Auto Racing Teams this weekend are Mike Zizzo, Vice President of Competition Public Relations; Steve Shunck, Director of Broadcast Relations; T.E. McHale, Senior News Manager; Nate Siebens, New Media Public Relations Manager, and Mark Tate, Pit Note Specialist. Feel free to seek out any of these individuals with any questions that you may have concerning this weekend's Honda Indy 300!
There is one big change in the usual entry list for the FedEx Championship Series this weekend. Local hero and Indy Lights regular Australian JASON BRIGHT takes over the controls of the #10 Della Penna Motorsports Toyota Reynard usually piloted by popular American ace MEMO GIDLEY. GIDLEY returns to the cockpit in two weeks for the season finale at Fontana.
The CART community would like to wish a speedy recovery to Credentials and Registration Czar Cathie Lyon, who is present and working here at Surfers this weekend. Ms. Lyon took the Gold Medal in the two-story-stair tumble at the Hyatt Hotel in Houston two weeks ago, triumphantly breaking her elbow in the process. But being the tough trouper that she is, Ms. Lyon refused to miss a race or the demanding 16 hours of joint-swelling flight to reach Australia. Hang in there girl!
TARSO MARQUES has a carryover penalty from the last road/street course event (Houston, Texas) for causing a delay in the Saturday qualifying session. MARQUES will sit out the last eight minutes of this afternoon's Provisional Qualifying session as a result.
GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 81 degrees F. (27 degrees C.) and an ambient temperature of 76 degrees F. (24 degrees C.) at the start of the session. The track is mostly damp but some drying is evident on the straightaways, notably the long back straight along the beach. Most all competitors start the session with rain tires.
At 10:32 a.m., a light drizzle again starts to spread across the track, rendering a very slick track. No drivers are now on slicks.
At 10:40 a.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #1 MONTOYA with a moisture-challenged lap of 91.502 mph (1:49.965), followed by #33 TAGLIANI (89.353 mph; 1:52.609) and #7X PAPIS (89.087 mph; 1:52.946).
RED FLAG waves at 10:43 a.m. after #5 NAKANO stalls at the exit of Turn 1. CART safety workers quickly pull the car to safety to wait for the end of the session.
GREEN FLAG waves at 10:47 a.m. to resume the session.
At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 91.502 mph (1:49.965), now followed by #8 BRACK (90.826 mph; 1:50.783) and #33 TAGLIANI (89.353 mph; 1:52.609).
At 10:51 a.m., the light drizzle has increased in intensity and the cars are now showing roostertails at the rear wing at speed.
At 10:53 a.m., #8 BRACK logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 91.880 mph (1:49.513) on his tenth circuit despite the increasing rain. BRACK is the only driver to post a faster speed during this increased rain period with quite a few drivers sitting on Pit Road waiting for weather conditions to improve.
At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #8 BRACK with his earlier lap and the top three drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 10:50 a.m. report. The rain has nearly stopped and the sun is starting to show through the low-hanging cloud haze over the track.
At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, #8 BRACK still leads the speedboard with his earlier lap of 91.880 mph (1:49.513), still followed by #1 MONTOYA (91.502 mph; 1:49.965) and #27 FRANCHITTI (90.394 mph; 1:51.313) now holding third.
At 11:15 a.m., halfway through the session, #6 ANDRETTI, #12 VASSER, and #97 da MATTA have still not taken their cars onto the track.
At 11:20 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #8 BRACK with his earlier lap of 91.880 mph (1:49.513), still followed by #1 MONTOYA (91.502 mph; 1:49.965) with #18 BLUNDELL now third (90.697 mph; 1:50.941).
At 11:24 a.m., #33 TAGLIANI logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 92.244 mph (1:49.080) on his 18th circuit.
At 11:26 a.m., the sun has now completely cleared the clouds and is shining brightly, rapidly drying the track. Most of the competitors have come in and mounted slicks (dry tires) for the remainder of the session.
At 11:27 a.m., #11 FITTIPALDI clocks the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 96.311 mph (1:44.474) on his fifth lap of the session.
BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:29 a.m. to #20 MORENO for a Pit Road speed violation. MORENO subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.
At 11:30 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with a lap of 96.311 mph (1:44.474), followed by #26 TRACY (93.823 mph; 1:47.245) and #7 PAPIS (93.421 mph; 1:47.706).
RED FLAG waves at 11:36 a.m. after #3 CASTRONEVES runs over the curbing at the Turn 1 chicane, briefly getting airborne and then slides into the barrier at the inside of the corner, damaging the left wing. CASTRONEVES is uninjured in the incident and returns to his pit as CART safety workers pull the car to safety.
GREEN FLAG waves at 11:40 a.m. to resume the session.
At 11:40 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is again #1 MONTOYA with a lap of 102.467 mph (1:38.197), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (100.806 mph; 1:39.815) and #12 VASSER (100.716 mph; 1:39.905).
RED FLAG waves at 11:42 a.m. after #6 ANDRETTI stalls at the exit of Turn 1 with a mechanical problem. CART safety workers push the car to safety as the crew heads to Pit Out to pick it up.
GREEN FLAG waves at 11:46 a.m. to resume the session.
BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:48 a.m. to #27 FRANCHITTI for a Pit Road speed violation. FRANCHITTI subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.
At 11:50 a.m., 90 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #1 MONTOYA with a faster lap of 105.072 mph (1:35.763), followed now by #12 VASSER (104.932 mph; 1:35.891) and #55 KANAAN (104.003 mph; 1:36.747).
At 11:52 a.m., #26 TRACY clocks the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 105.163 mph (1:35.763) on his sixth lap.
At 11:53 a.m., #12 VASSER logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 106.194 mph (1:34.751) on his fifth circuit of the session.
At 11:55 a.m., #27 FRANCHITTI slides into the run-off at Turn 4 but keeps the engine running and continues on course without apparent damage to the car.
Also at 11:55 a.m., #7 PAPIS logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 106.241 mph (1:34.709) on his 19th circuit of the session.
RED FLAG waves at 11:56 a.m. after #25 GARCIA Jr. spins at Turn 4 and stalls his car. CART safety workers quickly pull the car to safety.
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:58 a.m. to end the session after CART Race Control determines that there will not be enough time to Green Flag the session before the scheduled 12 p.m.-end. #7 PAPIS remains the fastest with his earlier lap of 106.241 mph; 170.942 kph (1:34.709), followed by #12 VASSER (106.194 mph; 170.866 kph; 1:34.751) and #26 TRACY (106.034 mph; 170.609 kph; 1:34.894). #6 ANDRETTI winds up sixth fastest (105.311 mph; 169.445 kph; 1:35.546) even though he only logged four laps, with the last two at speed on slicks in the session. Last year's Honda Indy winner #27 FRANCHITTI finishes the session 23rd-fastest with a lap of 99.921 mph; 160.772 kph; (1:40.700). Last year's CART champion #1 MONTOYA winds up seventh-fastest with a speed of 105.072 mph; 169.061 kph; (1:35.763). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 31 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #3X CASTRONEVES, #7X PAPIS, #2X de FERRAN, #8X BRACK, #25X GARCIA Jr. and #40X FERNANDEZ. CART drivers logged 397 laps during the morning session.
As the Green Flag approaches for the Provisional round of qualifying, the track is completely dry, courtesy of a strong sun beaming on the downtown Surfers Paradise site. However, clouds are again building to the southwest, and more rain cannot be ruled out before the 90 minutes of qualifying is completed.
In the 30 minutes each group will have on-track for qualifying, most drivers will use two new sets of tires. The teams will fill the cars with enough fuel for five to seven laps only to minimize the weight disadvantage of the approximate six to seven pounds each gallon of fuel weighs. Thus, most drivers will pit after five to seven laps to refuel and re-tire the car, before entering the track to again try to establish a top qualifying lap, usually the third or fourth lap of each run.
Please note that the track qualifying record set in 1999 by DARIO FRANCHITTI is 1:31.703, not 1:32.703 as stated in the event guide and Pit Note Number 1 earlier today.
GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 98 degrees F. (36 C.) and an ambient temperature of 79 degrees F. (26 C.) at the start of the Group One session.
At 2:33 p.m., #19 BARRON slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.
At 2:40 p.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest Group One driver is #8 BRACK with a lap of 106.970 mph (1:34.064) on his fourth lap, followed by #7 PAPIS (106.892 mph; 1:34.132; fourth lap) and #96 SERVIA (105.803 mph; 1:35.101; fourth lap).
At 2:42 p.m., #10 BRIGHT slides into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls his car. CART safety workers stand ready to tend to the car when the Red Flag flies.
At 2:43 p.m., #96 SERVIA brushes the wall at Turn 8 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.
RED FLAG waves at 2:43 p.m. to allow CART safety workers to tend to the stalled car of BRIGHT. The workers get the car refired and BRIGHT continues to his Pit Area. BRIGHT will receive the standard eight-minute delay-of-session penalty to start at the drop of the Green Flag.
GREEN FLAG waves at 2:46 p.m. to resume the Group One qualifying session.
At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group one session, the fastest driver is #8 BRACK with a lap of 106.970 mph (1:34.064; tenth lap), followed by #7 PAPIS (106.892 mph; 1:34.132; fourth lap) and #40 FERNANDEZ (105.288 mph; 1:35.079; 12th lap).
At 2:54 p.m., the penalty assessed to #10 BRIGHT expires and the driver returns to the Group One session.
At 2:57 p.m., #8 BRACK pulls into the run-off at Turn 3, apparently out of fuel and through for the session.
CHECKERED and RED FLAGS wave at 2:59 p.m. to end the Group One session as CART Race Control determines that the stalled car of #8 BRACK in the Turn 3 run-off is not safely out of the way. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up and tow it back to Pit Road. #32 CARPENTIER winds up the fastest Group One driver with his 13th lap speed of 107.273 mph (172.603 kph; 1:33.798), followed by #8 BRACK (107.207 mph; 172.496 kph; 1:33.856) and #7 PAPIS (106.892 mph; 171.990 kph; 1:34.132). CARPENTIER picked up 20.093 mph (32.330 kph) over his morning practice speed on a wet track.
GREEN FLAG waves at 3:15 p.m. to start the Group Two Provisional Qualifying session. The cloud cover is building from the southwest and there is now no direct sunlight falling on the track, most likely creating a bit better grip for the Group Two drivers than the Group One drivers possessed.
At 3:21 p.m., #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at Station 8, Turn 12 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.
At 3:22 p.m., #1 MONTOYA moves to first-fastest of the day with a speed of 107.474 mph (1:33.623), but is immediately eclipsed by teammate #12 VASSER with a lap 107.549 mph (1:33.557), both occurring on the drivers' third circuit.
At 3:24 p.m., #2 de FERRAN takes over the top spot with a lap of 107.703 mph (1:33.424) on his fourth lap of the session.
At 3:25 p.m., ten minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is still #2 de FERRAN with a lap of 107.703 mph (1:33.424; fourth lap), followed by #12 VASSER (107.610 mph; 1:33.504; fifth lap) and #26 TRACY (107.532 mph; 1:33.572; fifth lap).
At 3:26 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI takes over the Pole with a speed of 107.753 mph (1:33.380) on his fifth lap.
At 3:27 p.m., #12 VASSER again takes the top spot with a lap of 108.133 mph (1:33.052) on his sixth circuit.
BLACK FLAG is shown at 3:29 p.m. to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 3:27 p.m.
RED FLAG waves at 3:32 p.m. after #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls the car. CART safety workers quickly get the car restarted and TRACY continues to his Pit Box to serve the standard eight-minute delay-of-session penalty to start at the drop of the Green Flag.
GREEN FLAG waves at 3:35 p.m. to resume the group Two session.
BLACK FLAG is again shown at 3:35 p.m. to #34 MARQUES for another Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 3:32 p.m. and MARQUES again pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.
Also at 3:35 p.m., the top three drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:25 p.m. report.
At 3:36 p.m., #33 TAGLIANI slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.
At 3:41 p.m., #2 de FERRAN again takes the top spot with a speed of 108.640 mph (1:32.618) on his tenth circuit of the session.
At 3:43 p.m., the penalty assessed to #26 TRACY expires and the driver heads down Pit Road to rejoin the Group Two session.
RED FLAG waves at 3:43 p.m. after #6 ANDRETTI slides into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls the car. CART safety workers hook the car up for a tow back to Pit Road. As there is not enough time for ANDRETTI to serve the eight-minute delay-of-session penalty, the driver will have the full penalty assessed in the last eight minutes of tomorrow's final round of qualifying. Also, the ANDRETTI incident robs TRACY of any opportunity to improve his eighth-best qualifying effort.
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3:44 p.m. to end the Group Two qualifying session with #2 de FERRAN sitting on the Provisional Pole with his speed of 109.302 mph (1:32.057) established on his 11th and final lap of the session. #1 MONTOYA winds up second (108.562 mph; 1:32.684; tenth lap), and #12 VASSER is third (108.133 mph; 1:33.052; sixth lap). At the end of the session, the top three cars are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 11 separated by less than two seconds in lap times. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 different cars to the track in this afternoon's Provisional qualifying round. No secondary cars were utilized in the session. The drivers turned 263 laps during the two sessions.
GIL de FERRAN takes the Provisional Pole today in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard with his 109.302 mph (175.867 kph)-lap. De FERRAN is after his fifth Pole of the season and the 11th of his CART career. De FERRAN has qualified among the top three in five of the last six events.
JUAN MONTOYA sits second on the Provisional Grid with his 108.562 mph (174.677 kph)-lap in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Lola. If MONTOYA can stay where he is, he will log his ninth front-row start of the season.
JIMMY VASSER in third in the Provisional line-up in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Lola by virtue of his 108.133 mph (170.609 kph)-lap. VASSER is chasing his third consecutive top-three start as the driver started second at St. Louis and third at Houston.
Quotes from today's top-three qualifiers follow:
GIL de FERRAN: "It's good for today, but we're taking nothing for granted. I'm expecting a tough battle for tomorrow, and a lot of people will be making changes. Obviously, if it rains, it stays as it is and it's one more point for me in the championship, but it makes no difference. I just got the car working better. We made a small change on the set of tires and we were able to get a rhythm on the second set. We're not taking anything for granted, but we're off to a good start."
JUAN MONTOYA: "It's pretty good. On the first set, I think I was trying too hard, and on the second set I took it a little easier. I only got one quick lap on the second set and then it went red, so that was a bit of a shame. The car is pretty good for qualifying, so we should have a superb race car."
JIMMY VASSER: "We just sat there this morning. We didn't see the use to do the rain stuff. The car was pretty good, the same stuff as Houston. We set quick time on the first set of tires, and didn't really get a clear lap on the second set of tires. There was a lot of jockeying for clear track. But the car feels pretty good. I think if the track rubbers in, it will be good for me, but if it rains we're going to have to make a few changes."
This concludes the Pit Notes for today from Surfers Paradise. We'll see you tomorrow morning for the final round of qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 300! G-night!