CHAMPCAR/CART: Walker Racing Motegi Preview

GIL DE FERRAN ...

GIL DE FERRAN # 5 VALVOLINE/CUMMINS - HONDA/REYNARD/GOODYEAR

RACE PREVIEW: TWIN RING MOTEGI

What: Firestone Firehawk 500 Round two of the 20-race FedEx Championship Series for the PPG Cup

When: Saturday, April 10, 1999 - 1:00 p.m. (local time)

Where: Twin Ring Motegi - Motegi, Haga County, Tochigi Prefecture - JAPAN 1.549 mile Oval track 82 ft. Wide circuit Seating capacity is 132,000

Distance: 500 Km, 201 laps

Records: Qualifying (one lap): 1998, Jimmy Vasser, 217.964 mph Race 1998, Adrian Fernandez, 159.393 mph

Broadcast: ESPN 12:00 AM EST - April 10th ESPN2 5:00 PM EST - April 10th (tape delay) Eurosport 10:30 GMT - April 10th SBT- BRAZIL 1:00 AM Live - April 10th

History: 1998 De Ferran qualified 3rd and finished 3rd, 5.388 seconds behind winner Adrian Fernandez; drove a steady race; spent 4 laps in front (from Laps 164 to 167). "There was a lot of overtaking going on throughout the race, I was hoping to challenge Al and Adrian late in the race, but unfortunately, there were a few too many cars between me and Al. It was a great race, through." GIL DE FERRAN # 5 VALVOLINE/CUMMINS - HONDA/REYNARD/GOODYEAR

Off to Japan After Emotional Homestead

It may well have been the best sixth-place finish in CART history, and certainly the most emotional. Gil de Ferran needed a few minutes to compose himself after stepping from the Valvoline/Cummins Honda-Reynard after the March 21 FedEx Championship Series opener at Homestead. No wonder. After spending the off-season months testing and developing the new Reynard chassis, Honda engine and Goodyear tires -- as well as allowing torn ligaments in his left wrist to heal after a November bicycle accident -- de Ferran took a 58-G impact with the turn-two wall when his engine blew during qualifying. Forced into a backup car and 25th starting position -- plus a sore elbow and ribs -- de Ferran drove what he admitted might have been the most intense race of his career. He moved through the field and actually led two laps during pit-stops. "We put a lot of effort into this and it (qualifying accident) was a big disappointment," said de Ferran, "because we felt we were front-row material. People have no idea how much time and effort the team put into this, to be ready to be competitive at the first race. To make up that big a deficit is very difficult. We just want to win so bad, you have no idea. It guess that's why I feel a little emotional right now."

Next is CART's second visit to Japan's Twin Ring Motegi, April 10, where de Ferran started and finished third last year in the Valvoline/Cummins Special. The 1.549-mile oval, de Ferran says, will make for an interesting, fast show. "I think you're going to see a lot of exciting overtaking going on at both ends of the track. There's definitely more than one groove around the track, and it's fairly easy to get clean air, so you're going to see passing both on the straights and on the turns. Turns 1 and 2 are extremely fast -- flat out -- we're over 200 mph. Turn 3 is different. You have to touch your brake, and still exit at over 200 mph. The track is fast."

NAOKI HATTORI # 15 ALPINE - HONDA/REYNARD/GOODYEAR

"Racing in front of Japanese motor race fan in Motegi was one of my biggest dreams in this year. Especially, I had been working toward that since I started racing the Indy Lights two years ago. I am terribly disappointed at this moment not to be able to race my champ car in my home country," said Naoki.

" When I visited Alpine's factory in pre-season (Alpine is my sponsor, and they are located not far away from Motegi), they really encouraged me racing the CART series this year. I feel terrible because I feel like that I let them down for the accident and the injury that keep me from racing for them. However, Gil is going to race with Alpine's logo for Motegi, so I would like them to encourage Gil by supporting and cheering him up."

"In terms of my recovery process from the injury, I still cannot tell exactly how it is because of the medication I'm taking. However, my appetite came back, and I have a burning desire to race my champ car as soon as possible. At this point, I will focus on my rehabilitation program and I seek and try any possibilities to help me get back to the track as soon as possible."

DERRICK WALKER - WALKER RACING - TEAM OWNER

"I feel like we've made some big gains. The team worked well in Homestead. We had some tough track conditions to overcome. The tires were great. The engine ran all day. We were capable of winning. I'm greatly encouraged. We've got to feel good about Gil's chances going to Motegi. I expect that Goodyear will continue to improve, based on our Homestead performance, Goodyears are on the right track , so we expect to run very well. We want to bring Honda's first victory on their home track. It is a shame that we are only able to go with half the team; I feel for Naoki and the team that's not going to Japan. Naoki, racing in his home country would have been a great thrill for him," said team owner, Derrick Walker.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez