April 28, 2000, Rio de Janeiro: American driver Memo Gidley ran twelfth-quick in practice for the Rio 200, piloting the ...
April 28, 2000, Rio de Janeiro: American driver Memo Gidley ran twelfth-quick in practice for the Rio 200, piloting the #32 Players Ford-Reynard-Firestone in place of the injured Patrick Carpentier. Sunday's race will be Gidley's South American debut and his first oval event in CART. The young driver's 11 career CART starts all took place on road or street courses; the last time he competed on an oval was back in May of 1998, when he won back-to-back events in the Toyota Atlantic Series.
Gidley expeienced some minor equipment glitches in today's morning practice, but had a productive afternoon session. When asked about his adjustment to racing the Champcar on an oval, Gidley said "you get used to it pretty quick. The first session was a real handful, trying to get a feel for what the car's actually doing underneath you. The car was coming in real nice on the second session and I'm feeling very comfortable now."
This April has provided Gidley with the rare opportunity to drive CART and IRL cars in the same month, albeit on very different tracks. His first laps in the IRL machine took place April 10th at his rookie test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5 mile oval where drivers run flat out all the way around the course. The asymmetrical 1.864 mile oval at Rio is often called a "roval," and Gidley was quick to point out the special features of the trapezoid-shaped course: "This track is much harder to drive than Indy, because you're not flat out through the entire turn. It's like a road course in that you make such an aggressive entry to the turns. You're running about 210 miles per hour down the straight and then dropping down to 115 in the turns; braking way late and downshifting to third gear." The facilities of the Rio paddock are much more limited than the North American races, since every piece of team equipment must be brought in by air rather than truck. The colorful transporters and comfortable hospitality tents are nowhere to be seen, and drivers are forced to adapt to cramped quarters. Gidley liked the change of surroundings: "This is cool. I like the garage area, because you can get in an out of the pits really quick, there are no tents and everything is very close together. I dig it, the whole scene, the atmosphere. The only thing missing is spending the night right at the track, like I was able to do at Long Beach where the course wraps around a hotel."
Gidley anticipates a successful qualifying effort tomorrow, and looks forward to having the track to himself for a few laps. "I think we were 5th quick early in the second session, but then we got out of sequence and never put on fresh rubber. So if the car's top five right now, and we can get a little more comfortable tomorrow, who knows what will happen? It's hard to get a clear lap in practice, and it will be really refreshing to just go out and run clear by yourself and see how fast you actually are."
Gidley can't wait to get back in the car tomorrow morning: "Even thought we do two pretty long sessions, I want to just turn around and head back out there right now. The biggest thing is not going crazy while waiting for the next time you can go out on the track. I've got something to prove every time I race and I want to get winning, that's the main thing."