Scott Dixon will start from the pole position for Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. "Ultimately, today we had perfect conditions," said Dixon. In contrast to last year when weather interrupted practice and washed out qualifying,...
Scott Dixon will start from the pole position for Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. "Ultimately, today we had perfect conditions," said Dixon. In contrast to last year when weather interrupted practice and washed out qualifying, today both practice sessions were completed prior to qualifying.
With practice completed as scheduled, Dixon noted that the track time benefited everyone, especially drivers who had never been to Motegi. Mario Moraes falls into that category and he will start second. Moraes and eight other drivers are making their first appearance at Motegi as last year's race fell on the same weekend as Champ Car's finale at Long Beach.
"We have a really good car on ovals, and though it's a tough track I had a good car today," said Moraes. "I think we're going to have a good finish."
Dario Franchitti became the favorite for the pole when he posted a four lap qualifying average of 201.295 mph. Moraes, who was in the middle of the qualifying order, surprised everyone with his four lap average of 201.504 mph as his best single lap in practice averaged 200.332 mph. Franchitti's qualifying speed, good enough for the inside of the second row, was actually a tick slower than his best in practice.
Scott Dixon was the last man in the qualifying line and while you can never count the New Zealander out, the weather had changed from practice. Despite the slight change in weather, Dixon's speed was consistent from practice to qualifying. Fastest in practice with a lap at 202.105 mph, Dixon's four-lap qualifying run averaged 202.031 mph.
Series points leader Ryan Briscoe will start on the outside of the second row followed by Graham Rahal and Danica Patrick.
"I really enjoy this track," said Rahal. "The McDonald's car has been working well since the second we showed up. I'm definitely happy with that; I couldn't ask for much more. Obviously we still have room to develop but we're competitive and that's where we want to be."
Rahal's Newman/Haas/Lanigan teammate Oriol Servia qualified a season best seventh. "The car improved so much between the practice session and qualifying," said Servia. "The car had more in it than I was able to get out of it. Every lap I pushed more and more but I never got to the limit of the car even on the last lap so I'm pretty confident that there was a faster lap in the car. I'm not sure if the track was a lot better or we made the right changes."
With the grid set for tomorrow's race the consensus is that Turns 3 and 4 will be the key to the race. Dixon said, "the pass will start by getting a run in three and four" and be completed in Turn one and two. Dan Wheldon, who qualified eighth, agreed. "The key here is you've got to be able to get on the power real early coming out of Turns 3 and 4, and you've got to be able to drive the car in there really deep as well. Particularly if you can get on the power early, and with confidence, coming out of there you can get a good run on people coming down the straight."
Two drivers crashed during qualifying, sending them to the rear of the field for tomorrow's race.
Hideki Mutoh lost control of his Formula Dream machine on the second lap of his qualifying run. After turning a lap at 198.718 mph, Mutoh spun in Turn 3 and made contact with the Safer Barrier. Mutoh limped towards the safety car before he was carried by the track marshals.
X-rays taken of Mutoh's left foot at the track were negative and he has been released from the infield care center. He is cleared to drive. Mutoh said he was pushing too hard because he was racing in his home country.
Helio Castroneves crashed on his second qualifying lap too. Castroneves lost grip at the front of his car as he came off Turn 4 to complete his second qualifying lap. Initial contact was made with the right front tire before the car slid down the front straight. After coming to a stop in Turn one, Castroneves jumped from his car unassisted. Castroneves' first qualifying lap averaged 200.261 mph.
Both drivers will start at the rear of the field along with Tony Kanaan whose car failed to pass post qualifying technical inspection. Mutoh's crew is preparing his spare car, which entails a lot of work as they need to install one of the spare engines supplied by Honda Performance Development.