Team Player'S drivers hit the runway at the Grand Prix Of Cleveland: fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy course. Cleveland, Ohio, July 12, 2002 The first qualifying session at the Grand Prix of Cleveland saw the track remain empty ...
Team Player'S drivers hit the runway at the Grand Prix Of Cleveland: fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy course.
Cleveland, Ohio, July 12, 2002 The first qualifying session at the Grand Prix of Cleveland saw the track remain empty until twenty-five minutes remained in the sixty-minute session. But when Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani were cleared for take-off, their fast laps on the 2.106 Burke Lakefront Airport circuit placed them 10th and 12th respectively on the provisional grid.
Racing on the permanent airport runway turned temporary race track, Carpentier clocked his fastest time - 58.688 (207.902 km/h) on his twelfth qualifying lap, while Tagliani's top time of 58.757 (207.658 km/h) halfway through his session, on the eighth of fifteen laps (the maximum allowed).
"The Ford engine was good today," Carpentier said. "But while I was on my first set of tires, a pop-off valve opened on my fast lap while I was on the straight. The power came right down, and the valve wouldn't close, so there wasn't much I could do. I could have gone maybe a tenth of a second faster if the valve hadn't popped, and that would have meant at least four positions."
Things were equally complicated on Carpentier's second set of flying laps, when he was blocked twice by other drivers who had slowed down after completing their own fast laps.
"There's usually no problem with traffic here because it is such a long track. I guess I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added philosophically.
"The car was better this afternoon than it was this morning," said Tagliani, whose top time came on his first set of tires. "The set-up is well-balanced, but Team Player's has to find more grip. The car is lacking mechanical grip, which means that you are at the limit all the time. You can't go any faster; otherwise the car starts to slide sideways. The obvious solution would be to lower the height of the car, but this track is so bumpy, especially in the spots where the planes bang the runway as they land, that we can't go any lower. We have to look for other solutions."
In the final minutes of qualifying, Brazil's Cristiano da Matta posted the fastest time, completing the runway course in 57.641seconds (211.679 km/h) , almost half a second faster than fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan and New Zealander Scott Dixon, whose times were 58.092 and 58.094 respectively. American Michael Andretti came fourth, followed by yet another Brazilian, Christian Fittipaldi in fifth place.
Both Carpentier and Tagliani are happy with the set-up of their respective cars, but both also see room for improvement.
"Ford has improved the engine," said Carpentier. "It's just a matter of suspension on this particular track, and working on the traction control. The traction comes on and off, and that makes it more complicated, and causes delays that may only last a fraction of a second. But that's too much in such a competitive series."
"There is room for improvement," said Tagliani. "Now we just have to find out where."
Racing fans can follow Team Player's progress at Grand Prix Cleveland throughout the weekend by logging on to the team's website at www.teamplayers.ca. They can also watch live on the The Sports Network starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.