Takagi fastest, Giaffone third as practice resumes at Indy; Barron to replace injured Luyendyk in ...
Takagi fastest, Giaffone third as practice resumes at Indy; Barron to replace injured Luyendyk in #20 Meijer entry.
INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, May 14, 2003) -- It was an eventful day in the Mo Nunn Racing camp as practice for the 87th Indianapolis 500 resumed today after Sunday's Pole Day qualifying session.
First, two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk stepped out of the #20 Meijer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force in the aftermath of his accident in Turn 1 during practice last Friday. No longer cleared to drive after being re-evaluated by track medical officials this morning, he will be replaced by 32-year-old Alex Barron, who finished fourth here last year enroute to Bank One Co-Rookie of the Year honors, won last year's IRL IndyCar Series event at Nashville, and most recently subbed for an injured Gil de Ferran at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi last month in a Toyota-powered Panoz G Force entry similar to the one he will pilot for the remainder of this month.
Meanwhile, on the track, Tora Takagi and the #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force clocked the fastest practice lap of the day at 229.704 mph (39.1809 mph) over the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway four-cornered oval. Takagi, who qualified sixth for the May 25 500-miler, got in 45 laps of work in all today.
Felipe Giaffone and the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force, which qualified 17th on Sunday, moved up the charts to third today with a lap of 229.635 mph (39.3640 seconds) during his 63 laps of work. Gil de Ferran and his back-up car had the second-fastest lap of the day at 229.178 mph (39.2708 seconds).
Practice resumes Thursday with the traditional Bump Day of final qualifying set for Sunday, when Barron will attempt to qualify the #20 Meijer/Mo Nunn Racing entry.
"I'm very happy because this is a terrific opportunity for me with a first-rate team and a great engine-chassis package that I'm really familiar with. It's not the greatest of circumstances because I'm driving in place of a true legend here at the Speedway, but I hope we can carry on with the team's goal of fielding a potential race-winning effort. I got to race the G Force with Toyota power at Motegi, and I tested it here at the Speedway just before the month of May got started. So the learning curve should not be a steep one. I'll definitely be inspired by thinking of all those great things Arie (Luyendyk) has done here over the years."
"It wasn't a very difficult decision to go with Alex (Barron), when you really think about it. The first thing we did when we found out Arie (Luyendyk) wasn't going to be able to drive was talk to our sponsors and see what they wanted to do. They said, simply, that they wanted a driver who could step in and give us the best possible chance to win the 500. That goal never changed, from Day 1. We feel Alex comes to us with the highest credentials available. He tested here. He raced this package in Japan. I have every reason to expect that we can keep working toward our goals in the relatively short time we have left."
"Obviously we're happy with P1 today. The most important thing I wanted to get started doing today was working on my race setup and to begin fine-tuning the car and the way it acts in traffic. We got some good data on how my car runs in traffic, but we have a lot more work to do. It seemed like every time I was catching up to other cars, the crew had to call me into the pits. My fast lap was on my own, and I feel good about how the car runs when I am on my own. But the most important thing, obviously, is to have a good-handling car in traffic. My teammate Felipe (Giaffone) worked out some problems today that he was having last week, so he had a good day, too. Now we can really work together both with our engineers and out on the racetrack."
"I think that was our best day of the month, so far. Definitely showed we had a few problems last week and it feels very good to be up near the top after a big struggle. Finally, we could sort things out and I was actually going quicker with more wing, more fuel and older tires than we could go last week. The car was very comfortable by myself. Unfortunately, it came a little bit too late for qualifying, but better late than never. Now that we are back on pace, we can work toward race day and I think we'll be in great shape."