Day 1 -- Friday, April 11, 2003 IRL IndyCar Series post-practice quotes JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I love the track. It's a lot like St. Louis. As Brian Barnhart says, it's a St. Louis on ...
Day 1 -- Friday, April 11, 2003
IRL IndyCar Series post-practice quotes
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I love the track. It's a lot like St. Louis. As Brian Barnhart says, it's a St. Louis on steroids. It's incredibly smooth. I am pretty happy with our performance right now. We had all kinds of problems in the first session, then made several improvements in the second session. Right now we are at a 27.1 (seconds), but we still have some problems to solve. I think we can get down to a 26.8. That would be a good time for us. Things are going really well."
SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 5 EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We have a big push through Turns 3 and 4. We definitely need to make some more changes. Running here in my country is nice for me, but I am a little too busy. I like to be able to concentrate more on the driving, but it is difficult. Still, I am happy to be running here in Japan."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "For our first time on the track, everything went real smooth. We weren't as quick as we wanted to be, but I'm real happy with the way things went today. I like the track a lot. I still have a little jet lag, but it's not really affecting me. The fans here have been really nice and very polite. It surprised me that some of them have given me little gifts, and they don't really know me."
BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It's another one of those weekends that has not gone as perfect as we planned so far, but it's going to work out OK, like it did for us at Phoenix. Hopefully we have a chance to qualify tomorrow so we can really show where we are, but if it rains out, it rains out. I think the Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara Chevy will be strong. I'm not worried about it. The Twin Ring Motegi is a pretty neat track. It's fun. There's a lot of G's there. Things are happening fast. It will be a good race."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Today has been a day of learning for us. We've obviously never been on this racetrack, but we gained a lot of input toward figuring out this place. All in all, I think we had a very good day. We can take what we've learned and apply it tonight. We've got a lot to work on." (About first impression on Twin Ring Motegi): "It is very fast yet very challenging because the turns are so different. Turns 1 and 2 are so different from Turns 3 and 4. It is kind of like two different ovals and presents a challenge. At one end, we are at max RPM, and at the other end we're barely able to pull the gear. The diameter of each corner is so different from the next."
SHINJI NAKANO (No. 54 Beard Papa's/Auto Project Honda/Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I had a little bit of a shakedown in the car at Kentucky prior to coming here, but I'm still learning this car. The laps which I'm running are more like shakedown laps than fast-time laps. This morning went OK, and I'm still learning the car. I ran 60-some laps, and we made some changes in the car. I'm still struggling to find some speed or where the limit is. I learned a lot today and just want to put everything together tomorrow, and we'll be all right."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Our day went OK. We had a bit of a telemetry problem at the end. Ideally, I think we're going to be a little bit quicker, but we got good data today that we can use for the race. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's not going to rain tomorrow."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car is better than this morning. It is more stable and responsive anywhere on the track. We were able to come off the corners stronger than we could this morning. The race is going to be very exciting for all of us. We can run two and three wide, and there is a lot of room to pass. My Chevrolet motor felt stronger, too. We lost a few laps when I ran out of fuel on a long run, but we are ready to go now."
TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "The car was very good today for me. I was very happy with how things worked out in the morning session. I think we were at a little disadvantage running with the first (practice) group, because I don't know if we were able to get the absolute most out of the car. But we were fifth in the morning. We tried running more of a race setup in the afternoon session, and the car was very consistent. It seems to be much easier to get around this track driving my Pioneer Indy race car than with my Pioneer Champ Car the last two years. These cars have a lot more downforce, and the cars work very well in the corners right away. I think it will be very exciting for racing on Sunday."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I think we had a pretty decent day, especially considering this is a brand-new track for us. We were definitely strong in the first session this morning. The car felt comfortable right away. In the second session, we tried quite a few things, some worked out, some didn't. We would make a change, and the car would pick up a push. Then we'd make another change, and it went loose. So we just need to find that middle ground where the car will work best for the race on Sunday. There's a good chance qualifying will get rained out tomorrow, so we had to work a little more on going fast than we maybe would on any other Friday. But we'll be all right no matter what happens tomorrow. I think on this track, the difference between race setup and qualifying setup is not that great. With the cooler temperatures we're having here, we're getting a lot of downforce so it's a lot easier to work with the car."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We are sitting in seventh position, and I was hoping for a little bit better. Tony (Kanaan) did a good job, and he put his Team 7-Eleven car in the second spot, so that is good. We'll look at the data tonight and see where we can improve my car. There really isn't much difference between these cars and what I've driven here previously; the cars actually feel pretty much the same. With only two races remaining (before retirement), I'm concentrating on doing my job and finishing at the front. But as we get closer to Indy, it is starting to feel a little strange."
DAN WHELDON (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I definitely don't have as much experience as my teammates, and that is showing right now. I don't think we are where we want to be, but we are close. As the weekend continues, I'm sure we'll improve the Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola car, and we'll definitely be closer to the front. Driving Dario's (Franchitti) car really isn't much different than driving my own. I actually tested this car last week, so I have a bit of familiarity with it. It was a big surprise to learn that I was driving this weekend, and I have to say getting in the car this morning has been the highlight of my trip so far."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I really like Twin Ring Motegi. It's a great track. I'm really excited to be here, and this track is just a great blend. Turn 1 and Turn 2 are like some of the higher-banked ovals, and I think we'll be wide open through there, running side by side. Whereas in Turns 3 and 4, you are off the gas a little bit and have to really hustle the car through there and really work on mechanical grip. It's a really nice blend. The Delphi guys have given me a really good car right out of the box. We're so used to being able to test a track before we race there, and we don't have that luxury for this circuit. But I must say we rolled off the plane pretty good for this race."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This afternoon, we were really getting a lot more comfortable with the track. Given the weather prediction for tomorrow, we're not happy with where we're at, but we can't change that. If there's any consolation, the engine blew on our fastest lap of the day. We sure could've used the last 20 minutes on the track, especially if it looks like we won't get much track time tomorrow, but we'll do what we have to."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Everything went great today. The things we're doing with the Corteco car have really been working, and the changes we've been making have been making the car better and better. The Corteco crew is doing a great job, and now we just need to keep the momentum going. It's really great to be back in Japan. The racetrack is much the same as I remember it from 1998. If there's any difference it's smoother than it was when it was brand new. This race is going to be great. The cars will be running much closer together than the CART cars ran here in the past, so I think it will be a very exciting race on Sunday."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I think maybe previous experience helps a little. Today the car was pretty quick right out of the box. We made minimal changes throughout the morning, and then this afternoon we didn't do too much. Basically we just freed the car up, and I tried to get a little bit more speed out of it. I think in the afternoon session everyone was trying to get a tow because if it rains tomorrow, we want to be the fastest."
KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's a new formula for me, so I don't know how much that previous experience helped. Our day was pretty uneventful. We were a little off this morning, but I think we worked our way through the session pretty good. At the end of the session, our car was pretty good. We'll see for qualifying how well we go."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Like everyone else, we tried to be fastest today because it is supposed to rain tomorrow. We had a pretty good car out of the box. We were working on race setup this morning. This afternoon we worked a little bit more on qualifying, and I think I had everything I could have. Obviously to go quicker, we have to improve the car. We'll see tonight what we can do."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We came a really long way today. I was pretty happy because we started off slow, but we all pitched in after the first session. Everybody gave just a little bit more in the afternoon, and it shows what happens when you give your all. We had more than a second gain. We came to right up on Sam's (Hornish) time. That is important to us that we can finish up the day and feel good about what we have done. We are just looking at some things we can do for tomorrow or Sunday just so we have a good race car. As long as we have that, we will be pretty good."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm happy with how the day has gone. It's my first time here, and I'm still learning the circuit. The team has given me a good setup, so I think we will do well tomorrow and on race day. I think that both Scott Dixon and I will have a good chance to bring a victory to Toyota."