By David Reininger – motorsport.com
Elkhart Lake, Wis. (August 17, 2001) – The CART FedEx Series ended the first day of on track activities at the beautiful 4-mile Road America circuit with Gil de Ferran topping the speed charts in his Team Marlboro Honda/Reynard with a fast lap in the afternoon test session.
Tora Takagi, who moved to the top of speed chart with his last lap in the morning session, dropped to tenth fastest on the day after he was unable to improve in the afternoon.
The Penske team picked up where they left off last weekend at Mid Ohio where de Ferran and Helio Castroneves shared the front row in qualifying. When the checkered flag fell on last week’s race, the pair swapped the top-two positions with Castroneves taking the victory.
De Ferran cut nearly a second and a half off his morning time today to lead the first day of practice. “It was a good day,” said de Ferran. “We’re happy with the car, but then again, it’s only Friday. There’s a lot of work to be done. We’re happy, but we’re aware that we still need to keep making progress over the weekend.”
Jimmy Vasser was second fastest on the day, .229 of a second behind de Ferran. “All credit to the engineering staff at Patrick Racing, they’re really grasping what Roberto (Moreno) and I need with the car,” said Vasser.
Vasser’s teammate, Roberto Moreno was fifth fastest, recording a lap four tenths of a second slower than de Ferran.
Despite setting the sixth fastest lap in the morning session, Dario Franchitti said he struggled a bit when he first went out. “This morning, for us, was a very rough session. A lot of things went wrong at the start. Eventually we got a reasonable balance and then we started again this afternoon. We made some improvements from this morning and the track kept getting better with every lap.”
Franchitti ended up third on the day, three one-hundredths of a second behind Vasser. After providing the press corps with the standard answers on the day’s activities, Franchitti provided a comment straight from the heart.
“On a day like today, I’m just enjoying driving around here,” said Franchitti with a smile.
“I enjoy this track. It’s awesome. It’s a thrill to drive around this place. I still get a buzz every time I go out at this place.”
Michael Andretti was fourth, followed by Moreno, Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira and Tony Kanaan in eighth.
Qualifying gets underway Saturday afternoon at 1:45 p.m. local time. Television coverage of qualifying will be provided on a tape-delay basis by ESPN2 at 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning.
Notes from the Motorola 220 at Road America:
The official track distance is 4.048 miles. The race is scheduled for 55 laps (222.64 miles).
Lap times for practice and qualifying are recorded at the exit of Turn 14 while race laps are recorded at the start/finish line. Should problems arise with CART’s electronic scoring system during the race, scoring will revert to a manual system at Turn 14.
Kenny Brack will move to Target Chip Ganassi Racing for 2002, indicating that Ganassi’s ownership of Winston Cup teams and an Indianapolis 500 operation led to his decision. Brack, who has done well in the IROC Series, has made no secret of his desire to try his hand at Winston Cup. Brack enters into a “multi-year contract” with undisclosed financial terms.
CARA Charities announced this week their inaugural Indy Shop Tour during the U.S. Grand Prix weekend. The tour, which is scheduled for Thursday, September 27, will showcase some of the top open wheel facilities in the nation. In addition to tours of CART and IRL shops, a luncheon will be served at the Columbia Club on Monument Circle. Eddie Cheever is the first driver scheduled to meet with members of the tour. Tickets are priced at $150.00 and are available by calling the CARA Charities office at (317) 299-2277.