Homestead, Fla. - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya completed a successful two-day testing session at the oval course at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex today. Vasser drove the team's new 1999 Reynard-Honda, while Montoya ran in a 1998 car. The team's second 1999 Reynard-Honda will arrive in early January.
Vasser, who finished second in the 1998 PPG Cup championship, logged more than 500 miles during the two-day session, with the primary focus on Firestone tire testing. He completed 200 miles on the 1.502-mile oval in a rain-shortened session on Monday and posted the fastest lap among the 10 drivers testing. On Tuesday, Vasser registered more than 300 miles and again turned the fastest lap.
Montoya, who has replaced two-time PPG Cup champion Alex Zanardi, registered 425 miles in his second test since joining the team in October. In Monday's session, the 23-year-old totaled 175 miles and posted the second-fastest lap of the day behind Vasser. On Tuesday, he ran 250 miles and was again among the fastest drivers.
Mike Hull, team manager of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, said he was extremely pleased with the results of the testing sessions. "It was a very productive test," he said. "The guys ran really well both days, and we accomplished a great deal. Most of Jimmy's time was spent on Firestone tire testing, along with just making some overall adjustments to the new car. It takes a little bit of work to get the car balanced and feeling just right."
"With Juan, we spend a lot of time working on trying to optimize the car, which we did, and he was a very big part of that," Hull continued. "He adapted really quickly to the car and to the oval. Juan has a lot of confidence in the team and the guys on the crew, and he really produced out on the track."
"It was a great test," said Vasser. "The cars were fast, everything was reliable, everyone worked really hard, and we got a lot of good miles under our belts. Juan is really coming along and doing a great job on the oval. We've had a lot of good tests in my years on the team, and I think this was definitely one of the better ones. It seems like we're picking up right where we left off last season.
"My biggest problem was trying to adjust to my new seat," Vasser added with a laugh. "I've been sitting a certain way for the past four years and now I'm trying to adjust my seating position for safety reasons and sit down a little lower in the car, and I'm not quite adjusted to that yet." As for Montoya, who tested on the Homestead road and oval courses back in October, he said he is eager to get back on the track after the holidays.
"I'm so pleased with these two days," he said. "I can't wait to get back in the car. I was really happy with the performance of the car, and I'm getting a good feel for the oval. Like I said after our first test here, I really like working with (chief engineer) Morris Nunn and all the guys on the crew, and I'm impressed with the professionalism of the whole team. If every day turns out as good as these last two days, I think we'll have a pretty successful season. I'm really looking forward to 1999."
Montoya's next test will be a three-day session at Sebring January 22-24. Vasser will test again at Phoenix International Raceway Jan. 11-12. Those will be the drivers' final testing sessions before CART Spring Training Feb. 2-4 at Homestead.