CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago Mercedes Thursday Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Target Grand Prix, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois Date/Session: Thurs., Aug. 19, 1999 First Practice Carpentier, Mercedes Quickest at Chicago Mercedes-Benz Powers Four of...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race:           Target Grand Prix, Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Illinois
Date/Session:   Thurs., Aug. 19, 1999           First Practice

Carpentier, Mercedes Quickest at Chicago Mercedes-Benz Powers Four of Top Five in Practice at New Speedway

Just as Benz-powered vehicles showed the way in Chicago 104 years ago in the very first auto race in the United States, Mercedes-Benz teams set the pace at the opening day of Champ Car racing at newly built Chicago Motor Speedway. In 1895, it was a Benz Victoria with a four-horsepower engine that defeated its lone rival in a special preliminary heat. Today, four race cars powered by the 850+-horsepower Mercedes-Benz IC108E engine topped the charts in practice sessions for Sunday's inaugural Target Grand Prix.

Player's/Forsythe drivers Patrick Carpentier and Greg Moore posted the quickest times of the day over the new 1.029-mile oval. Carpentier, returning to action after missing last week's race at Mid-Ohio due to an injury suffered at Detroit, scorched a quick lap of 23.635 seconds ((156.734 mph). Moore, currently sixth in the points standings, was 0.103 seconds behind his teammate (23.738 seconds/156.054 mph). Mauricio Gugelmin was fourth-quick on the day with a lap of 23.823 seconds (155.497 mph) in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes. CART "All-Star" Helio Castro-Neves posted hasty lap times in the final moments of the afternoon session after his team made substantial changes to the set up of his Hogan Racing Mercedes race car. Castro-Neves' time of 23.824 seconds (155.490) was good enough for fifth place. PacWest Motorola Mercedes pilot Mark Blundell was credited with the 10th-best time of the day after lapping the circuit in 23.956 seconds (154.633 mph). Luiz Garcia Jr. and his Hogan Tang Mercedes team finished 19th (24.394 seconds/151.857 mph), while Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes driver Al Unser Jr. turned his best lap in 24.648 seconds (150.292 mph). Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie Shigeaki Hattori missed the morning practice with mechanical difficulties, then returned to the track in the afternoon session and lapped the oval in 27.844 seconds (137.997 mph).

Today's bonus practice sessions were scheduled to familiarize drivers with the new speedway. Practice resumes tomorrow beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET, and final qualifying will be held Saturday. The race begins Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET, and will be seen on ABC-TV beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Mercedes Quotes

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (First/23.635 seconds) "I am still in a lot of pain, and wake up six or eight times each night. If this were a road course, I wouldn't have been able to race. But the oval here is so smooth, it is helping me quite a bit. "The Player's team gave me a great car today, but I know we'll have to work hard to stay at the top. The track here is similar to Milwaukee, but the corners are shorter and the straights are longer. We are doing harder braking here than ever before."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Second/23.738 seconds) "We haven't changed the car that much since we got here. The track has changed, though -- it was pretty slippery this morning, but now it is 'rubbering' in nicely. The turns here are slow, so the key is to carry some extra speed in the corners in order to be quickest at the end of the straightaways. There is only one line here, so it will be important to qualify well on Saturday."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (Fourth/23.823 seconds) "We ran two cars today, and both of them were working quite well. We elected to use the T-car after we had a little problem with the primary car. I have some push in the middle of the corner, but the exit is pretty good * better than on most of the ovals so far. The circuit is constantly improving, so we have to read where we'll go from here. The low line is the only one that works right now, but I hope that we can get enough rubber to have more than one line, so we can have an exciting race."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (Fifth/23.824 seconds) "We made a lot of changes today -- gears, aerodynamics -- and we lost most of the session this afternoon. The car still has a lot of understeer, but I am very, very confident."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (10th/23.956 seconds) "We had a productive day. We tried a lot of things in a short period of time, but there's still more to do. I had a good lap on older tires, and we have a lot of data to look at tonight."

Luiz Garcia Jr., No. 21, Hogan Racing/Tang Mercedes/Firestone (19th/24.394 seconds) "We ran a lot with heavy fuel loads today, and we didn't use our second set of tires. The corners here are tight, so we have heavy braking at both ends. The track is still a bit dusty, so we decided it was better to be careful today. We need to run our qualifying trim, and see how the car handles. I felt like I could have been further up today, but I will push harder when it is necessary."

Al Unser Jr., Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (24th/24.648 seconds) "It's great that we had an extra day of practice to get a feel for the new track. It's very smooth, which allows us to get the cars low to the ground, increasing the downforce and cornering speeds. We do have to downshift going into the corners, so we're probably only going to be able to run one line through them. The straights are plenty wide to go racing on."

First Practice, Target Grand Prix Chicago Motor Speedway, Chicago, Illinois Aug. 19, 1999

Pos.    Driver                  Engine  Time    Speed   
1       Patrick Carpentier      Mercedes-Benz   23.635  156.734 
2       Greg Moore              Mercedes-Benz   23.738  156.054 
3       Roberto Moreno          Ford Cosworth   23.781  155.771 
4       Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz   23.823  155.497 
5       Helio Castro-Neves      Mercedes-Benz   23.824  155.490 
6       Bryan Herta             Ford Cosworth   23.834  155.425 
7       PJ Jones                Ford Cosworth   23.871  155.184 
8       Robby Gordon            Toyota          23.902  154.983 
9       Michael Andretti        Ford Cosworth   23.919  154.873 
10      Mark Blundell           Mercedes-Benz   23.956  154.633 
19      Luis Garcia Jr.         Mercedes-Benz   24.394  151.857 
24      Al Unser Jr.            Mercedes-Benz   24.648  150.292 
28      Shigeaki Hattori        Mercedes-Benz   26.844  137.997 

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Luis Garcia , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Luiz Garcia
Teams Team Penske