FedEx Championship Series Friday Track Notes
Laguna Seca (September 11, 1998)
Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Texaco/Havoline 300.
Today's CART on-track activities begin with a 90-minute practice session beginning at 10:30 a.m. The afternoon provisional qualifying session will take to the track at 2:30 p.m. and will be split into two groups with Group One comprised of the fastest drivers from the previous road course qualifying results. The Group Two session will take the Green Flag at 3:15 p.m. Each group session will last 30 minutes.
Do you want to learn how to win at Laguna Seca? ABC/ESPN color announcer DANNY SULLIVAN, 1988 PPG Cup Champion and 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner, will teach you via GIL DE FERRAN's Walker Racing, Valvoline-sponsored, Reynard Honda! SULLIVAN will depart twice this weekend from the Walker Racing pit to circle the track commenting on the proper lines to get around Laguna Seca Raceway. The first class will be Friday, September 11th at 12 p.m. and 12:10 p.m., and then again on Saturday, September 12th at 10:15 and 10:25 a.m. SULLIVAN's credentials are impressive at the Monterey track; winning in 1988 and 1990, with second-place finishes in 1986 and 1987. SULLIVAN also clinched his 1988 PPG Cup here at Laguna with his win.
Musical chairs Round One takes place this weekend in the FedEx Championship Series here at Laguna Seca. This weekend marks the first race for VINCENZO SOSPIRI in the #98 Castrol-sponsored Eagle Toyota for All American Racers. Former Toyota driver P.J. JONES has given up the seat in the Dan Gurney-owned car to allow the team to fine-tune a new driver for the upcoming 1999 season. JONES will be the driver in the Patrick Racing, Visteon-sponsored Reynard Ford next season, taking over the ride vacated by SCOTT PRUETT, who moves to the #25 MCI-sponsored Reynard Toyota from Arceiro-Wells Racing, driven this season by MAX PAPIS. PAPIS is moving on to the Miller Lite-sponsored Team Rahal entry being vacated by retiring driver/owner BOBBY RAHAL.
GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 96 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 82 degrees F. at the start of the session.
At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the 90-minute session, the fastest driver is #8 HERTA with a lap of 115.621 mph (1:09.683), followed by #26 TRACY (114.041 mph; 1:10.648) and #18X BLUNDELL (113.940 mph; 1:10.711).
RED FLAG waves at 10:47 a.m. after #34 VITOLO spins off course at Turn 6 and stalls. CART safety workers get the car restarted and VITOLO continues to his pit.
GREEN FLAG waves at 10:50 a.m. to resume the morning practice session.
Also at 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #1 ZANARDI with a lap of 116.392 mph (1:09.221), followed by #8 HERTA (115.621 mph; 1:09.683) and #33 CARPENTIER (114.953 mph; 1:10.088). #6 ANDRETTI has yet to turn a lap in this practice session as of 10:50 a.m.
At 10:55 a.m., #11 FITTIPALDI spins at Turn 11 but continues on course without damage to the car.
At 10:56 a.m., #7 RAHAL runs off-course at Turn 11 but continues on course without damage to the car.
At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #8 HERTA with a lap of 116.972 mph (1:08.878), followed by #1 ZANARDI (116.485 mph; 1:09.166) and #12 VASSER (116.114 mph; 1:09.387). ANDRETTI has now joined the practice session in the secondary car.
RED FLAG waves at 11:05 a.m. after #77 MEIER spins at Turn 9 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and MEIER continues to his pit area.
GREEN FLAG waves at 11:08 a.m. to resume the practice session.
At 11:10 a.m., #16 CASTRO-NEVES runs off course and back on at Turn 10. CASTRO-NEVES continues on course without damage to the car.
Also at 11:10 a.m., the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 11 a.m. report.
At 11:12 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL runs off course and back on at Turn 10. BLUNDELL continues on course without damage to the car.
RED FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. after #21 KANAAN slides off-course and into the tire barrier at Turn 4. KANAAN is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains damage to the left front side and wing. KANAAN's crew prepares the secondary car in the pit area to complete the session.
At 11:30 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is still #8 HERTA with a faster lap of 117.501 mph (1:08.568), followed by #1 ZANARDI (116.485 mph; 1:09.166) and #12 VASSER (116.114 mph; 1:09.387).
RED FLAG waves at 11:32 a.m. after #10X HEARN stalls on-course between Turns 3 and 4. CART safety workers tow HEARN back to his pit area.
GREEN FLAG waves 11:38 a.m. to resume the morning session.
At 11:40 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 11:30 a.m. report.
RED FLAG waves at 11:42 a.m. after #77 MEIER spins off course at Turn 3 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and MEIER continues to his pit area.
Also at 11:42 a.m., #16 CASTRO-NEVES runs off course and back on at Turn 4. CASTRO-NEVES returns to his pit area after a rough ride with no apparent damage to the car.
GREEN FLAG waves at 11:45 a.m. to resume the morning session.
RED FLAG waves at 11:49 a.m. after #11 FITTIPALDI spins off-course at Turn 6 and stalls in the gravel pit. CART safety workers get the car back to FITTIPALDI's pit area.
At 11:50 a.m. and under a full-course Red Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 11:40 a.m. report.
GREEN FLAG waves at 11:56 a.m. to resume the practice session.
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to end the first practice session of the weekend. As the cars completed the last lap, #8 HERTA and #1 ZANARDI made side-to-side contact twice as the cars exited the corkscrew (Turn 8A). Both drivers kept the cars under control but HERTA's car sustained a broken right front wheel in the second contact. Behind the incident, #36 BARRON also spun exiting the corkscrew and stalled the car. BARRON radioed his crew that he had a brake problem after coming to rest at the exit of the turn.
The fastest driver of the session remains #8 HERTA with his earlier lap of 117.501 mph (1:08.568), followed by #1 ZANARDI (116.485 mph; 1:09.166) and #12 VASSER (116.114 mph; 1:09.387). Fourth-fastest is #21X KANAAN with a lap of 115.817 mph (1:09.565) and #6X ANDRETTI (115.779 mph; 1:09.588). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 40 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #21X KANAAN, #6X ANDRETTI, #11X FITTIPALDI, #99X MOORE, #5X DE FERRAN, #18X BLUNDELL, #10X HEARN, #2X UNSER JR., #77X MEIER, #20X PRUETT, #9X LEHTO, and #17X GUGLEMIN. CART drivers logged a total of 435 laps during this morning's session.
Alex Zanardi, who currently is on probation, will be excluded from today's provisional pole qualifying by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach for unjustifiable risk during this morning's practice session.
Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) made contact with Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) in the corkscrew section after the checkered flag was waved to signal the end the session. After reviewing the tapes and interviewing both drivers involved, Dallenbach said that Zanardi's actions represented unjustifiable risk, which is referred to in section 8:13 of the CART Rule Book. The penalty will be exclusion from provisional pole qualifying which begins at 2:30 p.m. PT.
Zanardi will be able to return to competition for Saturday's morning practice at 9 a.m. PT and final qualifying which begins at 12:45 p.m. PT.
"After the checkered flag was displayed, the #1 car [Zanardi] attempted to overtake the #8 car [Herta] in the corkscrew and it resulted in contact," Dallenbach said. "It was a risky and unnecessary move by the #1 car and it resulted in damage to both cars."
Zanardi, who clinched the FedEx Championship Series crown last week in Vancouver, was placed on probation Aug. 9 following the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He was placed on probation and given a $50,000 fine for unjustifiable risk in two separate race incidents.
This is the second time this season that Dallenbach has excluded a driver from a portion of the weekend's competition. Paul Tracy, who also was on probation at the time, was excluded from Saturday's final pole qualifying at Portland after an incident with Michel Jourdain Jr. during the previous day's provisional pole qualifying on June 19. Tracy's earlier discipline marked the first time in CART history that a driver was excluded from competition by the Chief Steward for a rules infraction.
At 2:25 p.m. the qualifying attempts for the Group One drivers are ready to go. The split field will feature the fastest drivers from last week's Molson Indy Vancouver comprising Group One. They will be chasing the track record of 118.666 mph (1:07.895) set in qualifying for last year's race by BRYAN HERTA.
GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 119 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 82 degrees f. at the start of the session.
At 2:35 p.m., five minutes into the Group One qualifying session, the fastest driver is #99X MOORE with a lap of 116.293 mph (1:08.672), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (115.621 mph; 1:09.683) and #17 GUGELMIN (115.186 mph; 1:09.946). #8 HERTA, the fastest driver in the morning practice session, has not yet brought a car onto the track at this point of the qualifying
RED FLAG waves at 2:38 p.m. after #26 TRACY spins coming out of Turn 2 and stalls his car at the outside of the track. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY continues to his pit area for the standard eight-minute penalty.
At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session and under a full-course Red Flag, the fastest driver is still #99X MOORE with a lap of 117.323 (1:08.672), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (117.183 mph; 1:08.754) and #27 FRANCHITTI (117.008 mph; 1:08.857). #8 HERTA still has not made an appearance in the Group One session.
GREEN FLAG waves at 2:42 p.m. to resume the Group One qualifying session.
At 2:44 p.m., #8 HERTA pulls on track to start his qualifying attempts in the Group One session.
At 2:45 p.m., 15 minutes into the Group One qualifying session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 2:40 p.m. report.
At 2:49 p.m., #8 HERTA runs off-course at Turn 4 and returns to the course after a rough ride across the ground.
At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 2:45 p.m. report.
At 2:51 p.m., #8 HERTA moves to the third-fastest with a lap of 117.096 mph (1:08.805).
At 2:55 p.m., 25 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #99X MOORE with a his earlier lap of 117.323 mph (1:08.672), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (117.183 mph; 1:08.754) and #8 HERTA (117.096 mph; 1:08.805).
At 2:56 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 117.793 mph (1:08.398).
RED FLAG waves at 2:58 p.m. after #27 FRANCHITTI slides off-course at the exit of Turn 5, spins backwards into the wall, and comes to rest at the inside of the uphill entrance to Turn 6. FRANCHITTI exits the car under his own power but the car sustains damage to the rear as well as losing the entire rear wing assembly.
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2:59 p.m. to end the Group One session as there will not be enough time to clean up the track from the FRANCHITTI incident before the scheduled end of the Group One session. The fastest driver is still #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 117.793 mph (1:08.398), followed by #99X MOORE (117.323 mph; 1:08.672) and #17 GUGELMIN (117.301 mph; 1:08.685). Last year's pole winner, #8 HERTA placed seventh in the session with a speed of 117.096 mph (1:08.805).
GREEN FLAG waves at 3:15 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 117 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 82 degrees F. at the start of the Group Two session.
At 3:20 p.m., five minutes into the Group Two qualifying session ,the fastest Group Two driver is #33 CARPENTIER with a lap of 116.109 mph (1:09.390, 14th-fastest overall), followed by #12 VASSER (116.027 mph; 1:09.439; 15th-fastest overall) and #18 BLUNDELL (115.812 mph; 1:09.568; 16th-fastest overall).
At 3:25 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session ,the fastest Group Two driver is #12 VASSER with a lap of 116.687 mph (1:09.046, 10th-fastest overall), followed by #40 FERNANDEZ (116.509 mph; 1:09.152; 13th-fastest overall) and #25 PAPIS (116.268; 1:09.295; 15th-fastest overall).
Also at 3:25 p.m., #36 BARRON loses power coming off the hill past Turn 9 and immediately pits the car.
At 3:30 p.m., 15 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session ,the fastest Group Two drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:25 p.m. report.
At 3:35 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session ,the fastest Group Two drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:30 p.m. report.
RED FLAG waves at 3:38 p.m. after #3 RIBEIRO pulls off course exiting Turn 5 with a small fire at the rear of the car. RIBEIRO exits the car uninjured and CART safety workers quickly extinguish the fire. The car is pulled behind the wall by the CART safety workers to await the end of the session.
At 3:40 p.m., 25 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session and under a full-course Red Flag, ,the fastest Group Two driver is #2 UNSER JR. with a lap of 117.482 mph (1:08.579, 2nd-fastest overall), followed by #9 LEHTO (117.215 mph; 1:08.735; fifth-fastest overall) and #25 PAPIS (116.906 mph; 1:08.917; 10th-fastest overall.)
GREEN FLAG waves at 3:41 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3:45 p.m. with #40 FERNANDEZ the fastest Group Two driver with a lap of 117.566 mph (1:08.530; second-fastest overall), followed by #2 UNSER JR. (117.482 mph; 1:08.579; third-fastest overall) and #9 LEHTO (117.215 mph; 1:08.735; seventh-fastest overall.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI sits on the provisional Marlboro Pole for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Texaco/Havoline 300 by virtue of his 117.793 mph (1:08.398) lap. FRANCHITTI is chasing his fifth pole of he season and his sixth career pole overall.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ sits second on the provisional grid with a 117.566 mph (1:08.530) lap. FERNANDEZ is after his third front-row start of the 1998 season. FERNANDEZ previously had a pole at Michigan and a second-place start at Japan. FRANCHITTI has started on the front row in five of the last seven races.
AL UNSER JR. is third on the provisional line-up with a speed of 117.482 mph (1:08.579). UNSER JR. is chasing his best start of the season, his previous best start of the 1998 season being a fourth-place start at the U.S. 500 at Michigan. UNSER JR. is also looking to tie or better his best starting position since a third-place start from the 1995 season at Portland.
There are 21 drivers within one second on the fast-lap time set by FRANCHITTI with less than .2 seconds separating the top three qualifiers. There were 27 drivers qualifying today with secondary cars utilized by #99X MOORE, #21X KANAAN, and #20X PRUETT.
Driver quotes from today's top-three qualifiers follow.
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "We tested here two weeks ago, but the track was a little different today. There was no grip this morning at all and we worked all day trying to correct that. [Technical Director and Chief Engineer] Don Halliday worked his magic to get the car almost to where I like it. I'm still not happy with it, but we're getting there. Don is a great engineer. He's not a guy who thinks he knows all the answers. It's incredible the stuff he comes up with, from the car being very bad one minute to making a few adjustments and making it much better. [On the qualifying accident] I came through Turn 6 and I bottomed out a bit. All four wheels were off the ground and I had no place to go. I hit pretty hard and that was the end of the day."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford: "I have to credit this to my crew. The car that you saw basically destroyed in Vancouver is the car I qualified today. The crew basically spent two days to rebuild it because of a mistake I made and those were two days they were supposed to have off. I told them that if we qualified second, I was going to take the whole team to Cancun, so they're pretty excited about that. This afternoon I changed my driving style a bit to suit the push of the car, and it worked."
AL UNSER JR., Marlboro Penske Mercedes: "Gosh, I don't know what to say. This morning went pretty well for us. We're coming off not such a good test here and the car was acting the same as it did during the test. We're fighting a push we've been fighting it all season and I decided in the coach before we went out to change what I'm doing in the car by quite a lot, and we were able to make it all the way around.. What showed today is the confidence I have in the car. If I can get in and throw it around the way I did in that session, it's a beautiful little race car. I have to keep telling everybody it's a beautiful car because I'm the one driving it. The more we work with it, the more it will come around."
The American Racing Press Association presented retiring CART driver BOBBY RAHAL with the Jim Chapman Lifetime Achievement Award during a special charity auction event at the Laguna Seca Raceway on Thursday evening preceding the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Texaco/Havoline 300. ARPA Board members Art Flores and Ron Hussey made the presentation. RAHAL, a three-time CART Champion, and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500, is best known locally for winning four straight CART races from 1984-87 at the Laguna Seca circuit, as well as being named the Grand Marshall for this year's event. The award is named in the honor of the late Jim Chapman, PPG Industries Director of motorsports. The only other recipient of the Jim Chapman Award, is the 1978 World Champion and four-time National Champion Mario Andretti.
Mike Sack of PPG Racing and Roger Bailey, the Indy Lights President and their associates at PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship have scheduled a casual reception for media on Saturday, September 12th at 4 p.m. at the PPG motor coach in the Champ Car paddock at Laguna Seca Raceway. Race track attire is more than appropriate for the event. The day's program will feature a special announcement by PPG regarding the ongoing relationship with the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship. This will be made at 4:45 p.m. or soon after the completion of the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race.
Source: CART Online