CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske Sebring test notes

Helio Castroneves ran a lap of 50.44 sec. yesterday at Sebring Raceway marking the best overall time among the six CART teams and eight drivers participating in the two-day test. In total, Castroneves piloted his ...

Helio Castroneves ran a lap of 50.44 sec. yesterday at Sebring Raceway marking the best overall time among the six CART teams and eight drivers participating in the two-day test. In total, Castroneves piloted his #3 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard for nearly 150 miles on Wednesday before handing the driving duties over to teammate de Ferran for Thursday's session.

"We had a fantastic day today," said the enthusiastic Castroneves. "It was very productive and we learned a lot about the new car. We came here with a very good baseline set-up which allowed us to work on a number of new items we wanted to test and we were able to accomplish all we set out to do. I had one small incident prior to lunch when I spun going into the corner and backed the car into the tire wall. With the FedEx Series so competitive and the testing season so tight everyone is pushing the car to the limit - even in testing -- so these things happen. Fortunately, the damage was minimal and the Team was able to change the rear wing and replace the gearbox cover and I was back out on the track by the time we were through with lunch."

"Every time I test the car I feel more and more optimistic about the upcoming season," Castroneves continued. "But we don't want to get too confident, it's important to stay focused because I know this year will be more competitive than ever and that everyone will be looking to take the Championship away from us."

Other drivers participating in Wednesday's test included Adrian Fernandez, Shinji Nakano, Cristiano da Matta, Max Papis, Alex Zanardi, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Paul Tracy.

"Helio had a good test yesterday. We came here with a list of objectives and were able to get through our plan with only the one small incident. The crew did a great job to get the car fixed and back out on the track which allowed us to complete the test with very positive results," said Penske Racing President Tim Cindric. "Despite the recent set-backs to our testing program (shortened tests at Phoenix and Homestead due to accidents) we're moving forward and have

a full schedule ahead of us so we'll be ready to go in Mexico. We're in a better position now than we were at this time last year in that we have a year under our belt with this race package, drivers and crew. The relationships have all been formed and everyone is working very well together. The biggest change for our Team this season is the #1 on the car."

On Thursday, defending FedEx Series Champion Gil de Ferran was able to run for more than 100 miles before a mechanical problem ended the day early for the Team.

"It was good to get Gil back in the car," said Cindric. "His rib cage and shoulder are still a little sore from the accident in Homestead but we wanted to get him in the car and get things prepared for the season-opener. Obviously we started with a good set-up from Helio's test yesterday so we were concentrating on testing various changes. His best time was a 51.0. Unfortunately, due to the mechanical problem, we were not able to get in a proper run on new tires, but we're optimistic that with some more track time he would've been close to Helio's time from yesterday."

"I was happy to be back in the car, " said de Ferran. "I had some pain while driving so I'm still not 100%, but overall it was good to get behind the wheel again and continue our testing program."

SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH
While at Sebring on Wednesday the Team had the extra bonus of witnessing the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL. At approximately 6:11 pm all of the teams at the test came out of their garages to watch the lift off.

ON TO THE ESPYS
Following this week's testing program, Gil de Ferran is off to Las Vegas where he will attend the ESPY Awards on Monday evening. The Marlboro Team Penske driver is nominated for the 2000 Driver of the Year Award.

Immediately following the event de Ferran will be flying directly to Monterey, California to begin a three-day test with teammate Helio Castroneves at Laguna Seca Raceway.

-MTP

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske