Mercedes-Benz drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Patrick Carpentier scored top-10 provisional qualifying positions for Sunday's Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia, round 19 of the CART FedEx Championship Series. After intermittent...
Mercedes-Benz drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Patrick Carpentier scored top-10 provisional qualifying positions for Sunday's Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia, round 19 of the CART FedEx Championship Series. After intermittent rain limited track time for most drivers in the morning practice sessions, Paul Tracy took the provisional pole under clearing skies in the afternoon with a qualifying lap of 92.700 seconds (108.544 mph) around the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit.
Gugelmin's qualifying lap of 94.109 seconds (106.919 mph) in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes was eighth fastest. Carpentier, piloting the Player's/Forsythe Mercedes entry, turned in a qualifying time of 94.152 seconds (106.870 mph) for ninth position. Canadian Carpentier has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, including a second-place performance at Vancouver's street circuit in early September.
Hogan Mercedes pilot Helio Castro-Neves flashed a quick lap of 94.356 seconds (106.639 mph) on his 11th and final lap of the qualifying session -- good enough for 12th position on the provisional grid. Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes driver Al Unser Jr., the only active driver to have started all eight previous CART events in Australia, claimed 20th position with a qualifying lap of 95.558 seconds (105.297 mph).
The Player's/Forsythe team suffered a cooling-system problem in Greg Moore's race car, limiting the Canadian's time on the track in the afternoon qualifying session to three laps. Moore's best lap of 95.613 seconds (105.237 mph) put the Canadian in 22nd position on the grid heading into Saturday's final qualifying session.
The PacWest team battled minor mechanical difficulties with Mark Blundell's Motorola Mercedes race car throughout the day. Blundell posted a qualifying lap of 96.540 seconds (104.226 mph) for 25th position. Gualter Salles lapped the circuit in his Epson Bettenhausen Mercedes in 97.677 seconds (103.013 mph) for 26th place.
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (Eighth/94.109 seconds) "I'm happy with the whole day. With the weather conditions this morning, it was difficult to choose which way to go with the car, but we obviously chose the right direction. We're continuing to make progress from what we learned at Houston. I'm looking forward to being in the fast group tomorrow."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Ninth/94.152 seconds) "We're happy that we're in the top 10, which means we'll be in the fast group for final qualifying. The car was a little bit loose in the high-speed corners, but the team fixed that. I'm pleased with the car --but we always need to find a little bit more. "This circuit is tough. You have to run on the curbs to be quick. Everyone is hanging it out there and really pushing."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (12th/94.356 seconds) "On the final lap, I just tried to be as smooth as possible, and it worked out well. The car had some understeer today, so we'll have to make a few more improvements for tomorrow."
Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (20th/95.558 seconds) "We made a big jump in this afternoon's qualifying session. We were able to pick up almost four seconds from this morning's practice. The power from the Mercedes engine was good. We still have an understeer in the car, and we want to get it working better over the bumps. The track should come in more tomorrow so we can work on our race set up."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (22nd/95.613 seconds) "We lost time in the morning because of the conditions -- it was too dry for rain tires and too wet for slicks, so we decided to come in and not take any chances. Then we had the mechanical problem in qualifying. We elected not to take out the back-up car because that would have put us in a difficult position tomorrow. It's frustrating, but we'll have to do the best job we can tomorrow and see where we end up."
Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (25th/96.540 seconds) "It was a bit of a tough day at the office. We lost a lot of time in both the morning and the afternoon with technical problems, so we weren't able to work on the balance of the car. We have some catching up to do tomorrow, but we've run well at the last few street circuits and I'm sure we can be quick here."