CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago Mercedes Saturday Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Target Grand Prix, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois Date/Session: Aug. 21, 1999 Qualifying Mercedes, Blundell Qualify on Front Row For Target Grand Prix in Chicago ...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race:           Target Grand Prix, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois
Date/Session:   Aug. 21, 1999           Qualifying

Mercedes, Blundell Qualify on Front Row For Target Grand Prix in Chicago

Mercedes-Benz driver Mark Blundell qualified his PacWest Motorola Mercedes on the front row for Sunday's inaugural Target Grand Prix at the newly built 1.029-mile Chicago Motor Speedway. Blundell was nipped for the pole position in dramatic fashion by the final qualifier, Max Papis. The strong performance of the Mercedes-Benz IC108E engine continued, with five drivers scoring positions on the first six rows of the grid.

Blundell, who missed eight races earlier this season due to an injury sustained during testing, lapped the oval in 22.813 seconds (162.381 mph) -- 0.025 seconds behind Papis' time of 22.788 seconds (162.559 mph). Hogan Racing Mercedes sophomore driver Helio Castro-Neves will start fifth after posting a qualifying lap of 22.832 seconds (162.246 mph).

Patrick Carpentier will start alongside Castro-Neves, thanks to a qualifying time of 22.883 seconds (161.884 mph). Carpentier returned to action here in impressive fashion after missing last week's event at Mid-Ohio while recovering from a neck injury sustained in Detroit. Carpentier teammate Greg Moore posted a qualifying lap of 23.150 seconds (160.017 mph), earning the inside position on the sixth row. Mauricio Gugelmin will start alongside Moore in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes (23.187 seconds/159.762 mph).

Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes driver Al Unser Jr. qualified on the 12th row in his back-up car (24.314 seconds/152.357 mph) after crashing his primary car in the morning session. Unser Jr. made contact with the Turn Two wall but, after a brief visit to the CART Medical Facility was cleared to return to the cockpit.

Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes rookie Shigeaki Hattori posted a qualifying lap of 24.324 seconds (152.294 mph) and will start 25th. Luiz Garcia Jr., driving a second Mercedes-powered Champ Car for team owner Carl Hogan, made contact with the Turn Four wall before taking the green flag for qualifying and did not post an official time. He will start 27th.

Mercedes Quotes

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (Second/22.813 seconds) "I had a little wiggle coming off Turn Four, which could have developed into a wobble * that would've been a problem. The car has been running well all weekend. "This track requires heavy braking. I hope that a secondary groove develops, so we can have more passing during the race. It's going to be a tough day at the office tomorrow."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (Fifth/22.832 seconds) "Chip (Ganassi) did a good job here. The track is wide, but the angles into the turns are tight. It's going to be an amazing show tomorrow.

"We are satisfied. We'll just keep trying to get faster. I am very happy with the changes Hogan Racing has made this weekend."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Sixth/22.883 seconds) "The Player's/Forsythe team did a great job all weekend. Today we found some ways to save fuel without losing power from the Mercedes engine, so we are in good shape for the race. "I am feeling better every day. To miss a race and come back strong has been a big confidence boost for me."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (11th/23.150 seconds) "I had a little bobble on turn two, and it got my heart rate up a little bit. We made some significant changes for qualifying because we weren't where we wanted to be, and we came up with our best time of the weekend. We're going in the right direction. "The other guys are trying different lines, but I think it's going to be important to be able to dive underneath somebody. If your car is working good on the corners, you'll be okay."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (12th/23.187 seconds) "My car has been pretty good all weekend. It has the right balance. We had a brake vibration problem yesterday, which we solved. The car has a little push, but that's good. I should start in a good position, and overall I'd say this has been a good weekend for our team."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (24th/24.314 seconds) "Well, at least we learned our limits this morning. I was feeling really good in the car * I had just run my quickest lap, and I was looking for a little bit more, but it just wasn't there. The rear of the Marlboro car snapped out, causing me to hit the Turn Two wall. My neck and shoulders are a bit sore, but otherwise I feel fine. The key thing is we're in the show tomorrow." Shigeaki Hattori, No. 16, Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes/Goodyear (25th/24.324 seconds) "We made some changes this morning based on sunny weather, and with the clouds, we developed a hard push. We have been making a lot more changes the last two races, the debriefing sessions are much longer and the communication is better."

Qualifying, Target Grand Prix Chicago Motor Speedway, Chicago, Illinois Aug. 21, 1999

Pos.    Driver  Engine  Time    Speed   
1       Max Papis       Ford Cosworth   22.788  162.559 
2       Mark Blundell   Mercedes-Benz   22.813  162.381 
3       Jimmy Vasser    Honda   22.820  162.331 
4       Dario Franchitti        Honda   22.825  162.296 
5       Helio Castro-Neves      Mercedes-Benz   22.832  162.246 
6       Patrick Carpentier      Mercedes-Benz   22.883  161.884 
7       Bryan Herta     Ford Cosworth   22.889  161.842 
8       Roberto Moreno  Ford Cosworth   22.977  161.222 
9       Cristiano da Matta      Toyota  23.006  161.019 
10      Juan Montoya    Honda   23.101  160.357 
11      Greg Moore      Mercedes-Benz   23.150  160.017 
12      Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz   23.187  159.762 
24      Al Unser Jr.    Mercedes-Benz   24.314  152.357 
25      Shigeaki Hattori        Mercedes-Benz   24.324  152.294 
27      LuizGarcia Jr.  Mercedes-Benz   --      --      

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta , Luiz Garcia
Teams Team Penske