IPS: Test in the West Fontana report 2003-02-03

Infiniti Pro Series rookie Taylor shows speed on opening day of Test in the West at California. FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Feb. 3, 2003 -- Mark Taylor might be an Indy Racing League Infiniti Pro Series rookie, but one would never know it...

Infiniti Pro Series rookie Taylor shows speed on opening day of Test in the West at California.

FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Feb. 3, 2003 -- Mark Taylor might be an Indy Racing League Infiniti Pro Series rookie, but one would never know it by looking at the speed charts after the first day of the annual IRL Test in the West on Feb. 3 at California Speedway.

Taylor was the fastest driver every minute of the full day of testing, turning a top lap of 37.9290 seconds, 189.828 mph in the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Taylor was the first driver on the 2-mile oval in windy morning conditions, and he set the pace all the way.

Englishman Taylor only has spent a few days on an oval before today. He is a veteran of English road racing, including British Formula 3.

"We had a great day as far as the track is concerned," Taylor said. "I got to learn a lot about the car today. It is the quickest we have run. I am happy to say we were able to run the whole day without a problem. It was a nice, warm day. The wind was up a bit, but we were able to cope with that quite well."

Taylor is eager for as much seat time as possible with two-time defending IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing, which is fielding an Infiniti Pro Series car for the first time.

"It's all a learning curve," Taylor said. "Any chance I have to be close to another car and learn more about those kinds of drag effects, it's going to be a good day for me.

"Pancho (Carter) has been my spotter, so he has been talking with me through the day. I've been talking with Sam (Hornish Jr.). He's had some ideas to help me along. But Pancho is the main guy. He's been through it all before. He can see what I'm doing from the view he's got from up there. He can tell me what I'm doing wrong as I'm doing it. So, it's a great advantage."

Infiniti Pro Series veteran Cory Witherill, from nearby Santa Monica, Calif., was second at 38.1047, 188.953 in the No. 92 Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports entry. Rookie Jonathan Urlin was third at 38.1209, 188.873 in the No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

"It felt great," Witherill said. "We did some testing in January, but this is the first time back on a big track like this. We were pretty much just shaking down the car. It was good for the few laps that we had, but we didn't have much time to try all the things we were hoping to."

Said Urlin: "I think it had a little bit to do with the draft. I don't know if the other guys had a chance to play around with the draft a little bit. At the very end there, I got a chance to run with Mark, who obviously set the quick time, and my teammate, Marty (Roth), and I think that was where we set our quick time. That was the biggest learning experience for us, just playing around in the draft a little bit."

Eight drivers combined to turn 605 incident-free laps. Just .9075 of a second separated the top six drivers.

IRL IndyCar Series testing starts at noon (EST) Tuesday at California. Infiniti Pro Series drivers next will test Feb. 6 on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway.

TEST IN THE WEST NOTEBOOK

*Schedule: The daily on-track schedule for the eighth annual Indy Racing League Test in the West (times local):

Tuesday, Feb. 4, California (IndyCar Series): 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 6, Phoenix (Infiniti Pro Series): 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 7, Phoenix (IndyCar Series): 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 8, Phoenix (IndyCar Series): 9-11:30 a.m., 1-4 p.m.

***

Fans welcome: Fans are welcome to attend the Test in the West at both California Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, free of charge.

Spectators will be admitted to watch testing Feb. 4 at California from the track's terrace suite rooftops overlooking pit lane. King Taco, the Official Mexican Food Sponsor of California Speedway, will sell tacos for $1 as part of the track's Fan Day during the Test in the West.

At Phoenix, the Jimmy Bryan Grandstand (main stand on front straightaway) will be open for spectators Feb. 6-8.

***

Sign here, please: A free autograph session will take place at 5 p.m. Feb. 4 at California Speedway, with another free autograph session scheduled for noon-12:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Cory Witherill , Jonathan Urlin
Teams Panther Racing