HOMESTEAD (Dec. 9) -- The most experienced team in the history of the CART FedEx Championship Series is starting out with a clean sheet for 2000. Marlboro Team Penske got to know its two new drivers -- and work with their new chassis and engine -- at a two-day test on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road circuit, and came away smiling.

The 2000 FedEx Championship Series opens March 24-26 with the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and new drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castro-Neves are both optimistic about the team's chances.

"In my mind, the test was very successful," said de Ferran, who drove the new Marlboro Honda-Reynard for the first time Wednesday and Thursday on the 2.21-mile road circuit. "We had the first opportunity to get acquainted with each other, and we put a lot of miles on the car. The new car had no bad vices, and that's as much as you can expect at this point. The engine feels pretty good, also. So it was a successful test."

De Ferran has been on the verge of CART superstardom since his 1995 debut season, winning two races and finishing second in the 1998 championship. With Marlboro Team Penske, he may get that opportunity. He admits there is a long way to go before the season opens, but he's happy with the team's initial outing.

"This was more of a shakedown than anything," de Ferran said of the session. "The car is brand new, with a new engine. So far, it looks very reliable."

Also coming away smiling was Castro-Neves, a 24-year-old Brazilian who joins Marlboro Team Penske after one-year stints driving forTony Bettenhausen and Carl Hogan.

"I'm getting to know the team much better, getting to know the people and how they work, and how the Marlboro Team Penske system works," said the protege of Formula One World Champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. "It's a great team. This is a new engine and chassis combination for me, but it's also an adaptation for everybody on the team. While it's going to take a little while, everything is working pretty well. Gil and I have a great opportunity to be one of the fastest teams out there."

The fastest time of the two-day test was recorded by rookie Alexandre Tagliani, running a lap of 1:08.34 (116.418 mph) in the Player's Forsythe team's Ford-powered Reynard, the only other team to participate in the private session.

Ticket orders are now being accepted for the 2000 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota, by calling (305) 230-RACE. For additional information, visit the Speedway's official web site,