Gil de Ferran again led the Honda-powered field today in opening round practice for Saturday's Firestone 500 here at the Twin Ring Motegi speedway Japan. Teammate Helio Castro-Neves rounded out the top 12 today in the second Marlboro Team...
Gil de Ferran again led the Honda-powered field today in opening round practice for Saturday's Firestone 500 here at the Twin Ring Motegi speedway Japan. Teammate Helio Castro-Neves rounded out the top 12 today in the second Marlboro Team Penske Honda, just three-tenths of a second slower despite losing track time this morning with mechanical problems.
Running the high-drag "Handford Device" rear wing for the first time on this unique, egg-shaped oval, times today were generally more than a second slower than last year. Meanwhile, weather forecasts for the Motegi area call for the chance of rain later t onight and again tomorrow, with clearing skies predicted for race day on Saturday. If Friday's single-car qualifying is rained out, practice times will be used to set the race day grid.
In his first race back since sustaining a concussion in a testing crash at the Milwaukee Mile, Shinji Nakano finished the day 16th overall, just ahead of two-time defending race winner Adrian Fernandez. Finally, both Team KOOL Green drivers continued to w ork to improve the balance of their cars with the Handford wing.
GIL de FERRAN (#2 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) 6th fastest today: "We focused on the balance of the car today and made gains in the afternoon. Now we need to improve our corner exit speed. We know the direction we need to go, so I really hope it doesn't rain tomorrow and we get a chance to better our times."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) 12th fastest: "We are slowly making progress. But the afternoon (practice) session was not as productive as we would've liked, because of all the yellow (flag) time. Unfortunately, we were not able to t ry a lot of the things we wanted to test. Hopefully, it won't rain tomorrow because there is more in the car."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) 14th fastest: "I'm fairly happy with the car. We're really close on balance, but just a little loose through turns three and four. We're not as fast as we'd like, but did our best time without a tow. We're a lso trying to conserve our tires, and keep the best ones for the race, rather than use them up in practice."
SHINJI NAKANO (#5 Avex Group/Walker Racing Honda) 16th overall: "Other that a brief session yesterday (to gain clearance to resume racing), today was my first time back in the car since my (testing) crash at Milwaukee. Other than a slightly sore neck, I didn't have any physical problems today at all. I don't find myself dizzy or anything - maybe I will after the race on Saturday! We still have some setup work to do on the car, I feel we've reached maybe 80% of our potential. But we also spent some time today scrubbing in tires and preparing for the race."
PAUL TRACY (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) 20th fastest today: "The car is neutral in turns one and two, but pushes in turns three and four. We're trying to fix the understeer without changing the balance at the other end of the track, but we haven't found t he answer yet. The new (Handford) rear wing definitely changes the way the car reacts, especially with the changes we made to the car. I also don't think we have the gearing quite right yet. On a high-speed, high horsepower track like this one you need to have the gear ratios right on the money."