Fittipaldi Earns Eighth-Row Starting Spot for Daytona 24-Hour; Johansson Puts Second Cheever Entry on the 10th Row DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006) Open-wheel racing veteran Christian Fittipaldi qualified the ...
Fittipaldi Earns Eighth-Row Starting Spot for Daytona 24-Hour; Johansson Puts Second Cheever Entry on the 10th Row
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006) Open-wheel racing veteran Christian Fittipaldi qualified the #39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Crawford on the inside of the eighth row for Saturday's start of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona the legendary twice-around-the-clock sports car race at Daytona International Speedway.
Fittipaldi, who co-drove to victory at this event in 2004, clocked a fast qualifying lap this afternoon of 1 minute, 45.189 seconds, an average of 121.838 mph around the 3.56-mile road course layout. He's co-driving this weekend with team owner and 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever, Jr., and fellow open-wheel veteran Patrick Carpentier.
Sweden's Stefan Johansson solidly put the second team entry the #51 Cheever Racing NetVu Video Lexus Crawford that he is co-driving with England's Mike Newton and Warren Hughes, and Brazilian Tommy Erdos into the field for this weekend's event. Johansson turned a fast qualifying lap of 1:46.074 (120.821 mph) that was good for an outside-20th-row starting spot. That NetVu Video-sponsored entry saw limited track time today, breaking an alternator belt after just four laps of practice this morning, forcing the Cheever team to install a new alternator belt and leaving no time to turn a lap in the afternoon practice before qualifying.
All three drivers of the Crown Royal Special Reserve entry saw seat time today, with Carpentier and Cheever splitting time during the opening 90-minute practice session, and Fittipaldi handling the 60-minute afternoon practice and qualifying duties.
A total of 70 car-and-driver combinations are listed on the final entry list. The #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche earned the pole with a fast lap of 1:44.009 (123.220 mph), joined on the front row by the SunTrust Racing Pontiac at 1:44.395 (122.765 mph). The top 31 qualifiers are locked into the starting lineup. Final qualifying is set for late-morning Friday, sandwiched by a pair of practice sessions. Race time is noon (EST) Saturday.
"Car-wise, I think we had our best race car ever. It put the power down pretty well and the overall handling was pretty good. I can't say I'm overly happy with our starting position, but I am really happy that the difference between where we are and the car starting on the pole is only 1.1 seconds. I think the way things have worked out, the Crown Royal car is suited more toward surviving 24 hours here than realistically getting a top-10 or top-five qualifying time. But considering we are brand new to this kind of racing as a team, just getting to learn the Crawford chassis, I would give our performance today and eight on a scale of one to 10. Mechanically, everything is coming together. It's a completely different car than it was when we first started testing last month. We're competing against people who have been racing this formula for two years, now. That's not a huge advantage, but it's an advantage. But I'm happy with where we are. I was afraid we might be a little off the pace before we got here, but we're very much there, as far as I'm concerned."
"It was a very tricky qualifying session because we weren't entirely sure how the NetVu Video car was going to do, thanks to the issues we had to deal with in practice. All things considered, I think we came out pretty well because it felt pretty good out there. From here, I think there are only some minor things we need to adjust and work on to be more competitive. It certainly hasn't been an ideal day, but I think we're in pretty good shape with some time left to make our car better."
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.
"I think we've come a long way in the short time since we started this program. The 39 team had a pretty good day, all things considered. The 51 team had some problems with the broken alternator belt on an older engine spec that turned out to cost us a lot of time. But even so, I was glad to see they managed to get their qualifying done today. Like everyone else in the paddock, I was impressed with the Porsches and the Fords out there today. That's the target for where we'd like to be, right now. But more realistically, the truest measure of where we are is how we stack up against the other Lexus teams, and in that respect, I think we're doing pretty well. The Crawford chassis seemed to be a very nervous car when we first got our hands on it. But we've made a lot of progress with our chassis program to the point where we feel like it doesn't want to kill us at every corner. We have a night practice and two daytime sessions tomorrow to make our final preparations for the long race. I think we'll be alright. Our goal is to finish."