CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes-Benz Fastest on Day One at CART Spring Training

Mercedes-Benz FedEx Championship Series Report Race: CART Spring Training, Homestead, Fla. Date/Session: Wed., Feb. 3, 1999 First Practice Carpentier and Mercedes Fastest at Spring Training Player's/Forsythe Teammate...

Mercedes-Benz FedEx Championship Series Report

Race: CART Spring Training, Homestead, Fla. Date/Session: Wed., Feb. 3, 1999 First Practice

Carpentier and Mercedes Fastest at Spring Training Player's/Forsythe Teammate Greg Moore Joins Carpentier in the Top Five

Mercedes-Benz powered Player's/Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier to the field's top spot on the first day of practice at Spring Training for the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series. Carpentier turned a lap of 25.375 seconds (213.092 mph) over Homestead Motorsport Complex's 1.502 mile oval, besting Jimmy Vasser who was second-quickest for the day at 25.396 seconds (212.915 mph).

Greg Moore, Carpentier's teammate, was fifth-quickest with a lap time of 25.549 seconds (211.640 mph), while Mark Blundell was seventh in PacWest Racing's Motorola Mercedes (25.725 sec/210.192 mph). This was Moore's first test on an oval this season. Meanwhile, Blundell's team worked diligently throughout the day to improve the car's balance.

Al Unser Jr., driver of the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes, struggled with an ill-handling race car during today's test sessions -- posting a best lap time of 26.031 seconds (207.722 mph), placing him 14th in the 26-driver field. Helio Castro-Neves, in his first outing in the Hogan Racing Mercedes, experimented with chassis set-up and placed 16th overall with a lap time of 26.069 seconds (207.419 mph). PacWest Racing's Hollywood Mercedes, piloted by Mauricio Gugelmin, experienced mechanical difficulties during the morning session which limited his track time. During the afternoon session, Gugelmin posted a lap time of 26.429 seconds (204.593 mph), placing him 22nd for the day.

Rookie Shigeaki Hattori lost control of his Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes machine early in the first test session, hitting the fourth-turn wall. He was released from the CART Medical Center with a bruised left ankle. Unable to repair the damaged car, and without a back-up vehicle, Hattori's team returned to its Indianapolis race shop to prepare for additional testing prior to the season-opening event here.

Tomorrow's practice sessions will run from 9:00-11:45 a.m., and from 1:15-4:00 p.m. The first race of the CART Fed Ex Championship Series will be the Marlboro Miami Grand Prix at Homestead, Sunday, March 21.

Mercedes Quotes Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "It was a good day. The conditions changed a lot from this morning to this afternoon. It was hotter in the afternoon and there was a lot of oil and debris on the track. We had to readjust. Also, we tried to install something in the setup that didn't work, so we had to take it back out. I'm happy, but the car is not very stable right now. We'll try to fix it and go faster tomorrow."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "We're fifth overall and very satisfied with today's results. We made some set-up changes since last time here (last year's Miami Grand Prix), and they are a step forward. The most important thing is that we tested against guys who've been here a few days, and we showed we could be quick right away."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone "I was really excited today. Everything is brand new to me. I have a different chassis and different tires from last year. We have to find a setup that is right for me. For the first day I'm not disappointed. We had a few problems, plus we tried to run both cars. We had a little fire at the beginning of the first session, but with everything new that happens sometimes."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone "We did a lot of constructive work this morning. Basically, we were running laps to find a balance in the car. We weren't in the performance zone, but we had to work through it. We made some evaluations for the second session and had a car that I could read -- that means having a car with good balance under you. It's nice to top off the day with confidence."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone "We never had balance. The car pushed in the corner and was loose in the exit. Since we lost the morning session, we were a little behind. The times aren't representative of what we can do because we ran out of time today."

Al Unser, Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear "We were struggling with understeer since the beginning of today's session, and the problem increased in the afternoon. We are frustrated because we had tested here over the winter and were turning 25-second lap times. We're going over our notes to see where we can improve so we can make the most of tomorrow's testing."

Shigeaki Hattori (R), No. 16, Bettenhausen Racing Mercedes/Goodyear "I had been out for about 10 laps already and was just getting comfortable in the car. The conditions were much different today than when I tested for the first time Monday. It was much cooler this morning. When I was going into turn four, the car was pushing a little and when I went to put the power down at the apex, it just snapped around."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Al Unser
Teams Team Penske