CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Pole Qualifying Report

De Ferran Steals the Pole By Robin Miller MOTEGI, Japan -- Gil de Ferran's run to the pole position for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 satisfied many parties. Goodyear was ecstatic, Honda relieved, Valvoline happy and Derrick Walker ...

De Ferran Steals the Pole By Robin Miller MOTEGI, Japan -- Gil de Ferran's run to the pole position for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 satisfied many parties. Goodyear was ecstatic, Honda relieved, Valvoline happy and Derrick Walker giddy.

"We've worked really hard and overcome some big setbacks lately, so, yes, what can I say? This is truly a good feeling," said de Ferran after stealing the top spot for CART's second race of 1999. "Goodyear took a lot of grief recently and in the past two years, so obviously a lot is at stake."

After practicing sixth fastest, the 31-year-old Brazilian upstaged his competition with a lap of 25.463 seconds (219.000 mph) in the Valvoline Reynard/Honda/Goodyear. It was Goodyear's first pole since Michael Andretti's at Elkhart Lake last August -- Goodyear's only one of '98 -- and the fifth of de Ferran's five-year career.

It also gave Honda, which built the $400 million Twin Ring Motegi, some bragging rights on its home track. "It was a good lap, obviously, and we needed it," de Ferran said after claiming the 28th pole of Honda's history in Champ Cars.

But de Ferran doesn't own much of an advantage. In one of the tightest fields in CART's history, the top 20 qualifiers were separated by five-tenths of a second.

Mauricio Gugelmin, in the Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone, came through with the second-best lap at 25.530 seconds (218.425 mph), and Max Papis earned the third slot at 25.547 seconds in the Miller Reynard/Ford/Firestone.

"Things are so tight at this place, and my guys gave me a great car," said Gugelmin, one of the few -- if not the only -- drivers downshifting in the tight third turn on the 1.5-mile oval.

The man who paced all three practice sessions, Adrian Fernandez, had to settle for a disappointing fourth-fastest lap of 25.555 seconds (218.212 mph) in the Tecate Reynard/Ford/Firestone.

Andretti bounced back from an accident on Thursday by posting the fifth-best speed in the Kmart Swift/Ford/Firestone. His lap was 25.566 seconds (218.118 mph).

"I held back a little in [Turns] 3 and 4, and I should have gone in harder," said CART's all-time winner, who escaped a hard crash after being speared by rookie Juan Montoya.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Mauricio Gugelmin , Robin Miller