CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto Friday practice report

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Toronto, Ont. (July 13, 2001) - Halfway through this morning's practice session, Gil de Ferran turned a lap averaging 106.891 mph around the 1.755-mile street circuit at Exhibition Place in Toronto. His time...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Toronto, Ont. (July 13, 2001) - Halfway through this morning's practice session, Gil de Ferran turned a lap averaging 106.891 mph around the 1.755-mile street circuit at Exhibition Place in Toronto. His time stood for another 45 minutes, leaving the Brazilian driver atop the speed charts at the conclusion of Friday's first practice session.

In the 90-minute afternoon session that followed, de Ferran shaved .707 of a second off his morning time, setting the fastest lap of the day 30 minutes into the session at 108.185 mph.

"The day was pretty good," said de Ferran, driver of the Marlboro Team Penske Reynard-Honda. "Since we unloaded from the truck, the car was really handling well."

With each team allocated seven sets of Firestone tires for the weekend, many drivers try to save their tires until the track starts to take rubber. "We have more time than we have tires," said de Ferran. "There is a severe tire limitation. They cut (in season) testing but added time to Friday. I thought it was a pretty good idea but now you run out of tires before you run out of time."

Firestone was willing to increase production, allowing teams an extra set of tires but CART officials felt that seven sets was enough.

Since the circuit around Exhibition Place is used once a year for auto racing, the surface has no rubber on it when the teams arrive for practice. Although the drivers are trying to set fast times, Friday's first practice session is often used as a warm-up session where teams assess the car's balance using old tires. Once the track starts to take rubber, traction is enhanced, increasing speeds.

"The car was very quick this morning," said Fittipaldi, who set the eighth fastest time in the morning session. "We just ran old tires this morning. That's why we didn't go any quicker, but we had a very good balance."

Fittipaldi ended the day second fastest after recording a lap in the afternoon at 107.750 mph in the Kmart Lola-Toyota.

"In the afternoon we did about two runs with the same set of tires. Early in the session we a new set of tires on, and that's when I did my lap time."

After setting his quick time, the crew made changes to the car and returned Fittipaldi to the circuit where he inadvertently over-revved the engine. Forced to use the spare car for the remainder for the session, Fittipaldi was unable to improve upon his time.

Dario Franchitti drove the Team Kool Green Reynard-Honda to third fastest overall with a lap at 107.711 mph, two one-hundredths of a second off second place.

"The car feels good, but the track is pretty slippery," said Franchitti, who won the last CART FedEx Series race two weeks ago at Cleveland. "It's going to be very interesting qualifying here, it always is. It always comes down to the last lap when the track is at its best. It's going to be exciting tomorrow, no doubt about it.

"As long as the rain stays away, it'll be a lot of fun."

Franchitti is currently third in championship standings with 65 points.

Fourth fastest on the day was Tony Kanaan, driver of the Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood Reynard-Honda. Kanaan, third fastest in the morning session, trimmed .447 of a second in the afternoon, ending the day with a lap at 107.493 mph (58.776 seconds).

Michael Andretti made a huge improvement between sessions, knocking 1.386 seconds off his 19th place morning time to finish the day 5th overall. "This morning started out pretty rough but we made some changes during the lunch hour and the car is pretty reasonable," said Andretti. "I don't think we've gotten the best out of the car yet, I think we left a little bit out there so we're in good shape this weekend."

"We had some gremlins here and there and touched the wall this morning and really didn't get the best out of the session but we're back on track this afternoon," said Kim Green, Team Motorola's General Manager. "This shows the strength of Team Motorola when we can rebound from a frustrating session and come back on track and have a good afternoon."

Paul Tracy was sixth fastest, followed by Helio Castroneves and Cristiano da Matta. Alex Tagliani and Max Papis rounded out the top 10.

Notes from Molson Indy Toronto at Canadian National Exhibition Place -

In a one-race deal announced today, NTN Bearings will appear as primary sponsor on the PacWest Reynard-Toyota of Scott Dixon. NTN Bearings will appear on the sidepods of Dixon's car for the Molson Indy Toronto weekend. NTN Bearings has been an associate sponsor on Mauricio Gugelmin's car.

***

Oriol Servia, driver of the Sigma Autosport Lola-Ford, celebrated his 27th birthday today.

***

Rocky Moran Jr. moves to Cobb Racing, joining T.J. Bell in one of the team's Swift chassis. Moran ran the first five races of the season with Condor Motorsports. Moran is coming off his best race of the season in the Toyota Atlantic Series, earning a fifth place finish at Cleveland two weeks ago.

***

Case Montgomery, who has three career victories in the Atlantic series, will make his first appearance of the 2001 season, taking over the seat vacated by Moran at Condor Motorsports.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Oriol Servia , T.J. Bell , Rocky Moran Jr. , Kim Green , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske