IRL: Indy500: Junqueira leads ROP speeds

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, April 14, 2001 - Bruno Junqueira posted the fastest time of the two-day Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 13-14, while Cory Witherill passed his final phase of the rookie exam Saturday, ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, April 14, 2001 - Bruno Junqueira posted the fastest time of the two-day Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 13-14, while Cory Witherill passed his final phase of the rookie exam Saturday, making all nine participating rookies eligible to compete in the 85th Indianapolis 500.

Junqueira, a Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver, recorded the fastest lap of the two-day test on Saturday morning with a lap of 40.9132 seconds, 219.978 mph, besting Helio Castroneves' lap of 41.0202 seconds, 219.877 mph also turned on Saturday.

Witherill passed his final phase just before noon Saturday, making him the final rookie to receive clearance for the 500-Mile Race. Witherill turned his initial laps Friday afternoon and was the only driver who didn't complete all four phases on the first day of the program.

"I am happy about our performance today," said Junqueira. "This test was very good for both me and the team. We were able to do some long runs today and get a feel for how the car reacts as the fuel load goes down."

Other drivers who completed their tests were: Nicolas Minassian (Target/Chip Ganassi Racing), Brandon Erwin (McCormack Motorsports), Junqueira (Target/Chip Ganassi Racing), Shigeaki Hattori (Vertex-Cunningham), Didier Andre (Galles Racing), Felipe Giaffone (Treadway-Hubbard Racing) and Jon Herb (Tri Star Motorsports).

The rookie tests have been mandatory for new drivers since 1936. Drivers are required to complete three of the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program before they are cleared to begin practice during the month of May.

Drivers were required to complete 10 laps at each of the speed phases - 195-200 mph; 200-205 mph; 205-210 mph; more than 210 mph - while showing control of the car under the eye of veteran Indy Racing observers including

Al Unser, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Ten rookies completed 956 laps around the 2.5-mile oval during the two-day test. There was only one accident, and it occurred on Friday when Minassian made crashed on the frontstraightaway due to an engine malfunction. He was taken to Methodist Hospital for observations, but was released early Friday afternoon.

Opening Day for the 85th Indianapolis 500 is May 6, while MBNA Pole Day will take place May 12. Bump Day is May 20, and Coors Carb Day is May 24. The 85th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 27.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Jon Herb , Shigeaki Hattori , Didier André , Cory Witherill , Helio Castroneves , Brandon Erwin , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Chip Ganassi , Johnny Rutherford , Al Unser
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing