CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland Saturday track notes

• Good Morning from humid Cleveland, Ohio, for Qualifying Day by Lake Erie. Today's weather has greeted the early arrivals to the track with occluded skies capping a rising humidity. The local Burke Lakefront Airport weather forecasters have ...

• Good Morning from humid Cleveland, Ohio, for Qualifying Day by Lake Erie. Today's weather has greeted the early arrivals to the track with occluded skies capping a rising humidity. The local Burke Lakefront Airport weather forecasters have scattered thunderstorms rolling in today, just in time for the Champ Car Qualifying Green Flag at 1:45 p.m. A small low pressure system spiraling in from the northwest still threatens the area from this afternoon to Sunday night, so the team engineers will earn their money again today. First up, however, is the first official practice session of the weekend, taking the Green Flag at 9:45 a.m.

• #22 SERVIA will have to serve an eight-minute delay-of-session penalty at the end of today's practice session.

• At 9:45 a.m., the scheduled start of the practice session is delayed to allow CART course workers to make minor repairs to the track after the preceding Toyota Atlantic session had ended.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 10 a.m. to start the practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 96 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 84 degrees F. at the start of the session.

• At 10:07 a.m., #5 TAKAGI spins off course to the outside at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:08 a.m., #20 MORENO spins a 360-degree loop at Turn 3 but continues on course without leaving the track.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:09 a.m. to #22 SERVIA for a Pit Road speed violation. SERVIA subsequently pits for the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

• Also at 10:09 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER spins at Turn 3 but continues on course.

• At 10:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #11 FITTIPALDI with a lap of 127.574 mph (59.429 seconds; sixth lap), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (127.195 mph; 59.606 seconds; sixth lap) and #17 GUGELMIN (127.136 mph; 59.634 seconds; sixth lap).

• At 10:12 a.m., #51 FERNANDEZ slides off course at Turn 5 and takes a rough ride before the driver can gather the car back in.

• Also at 10:12 a.m., #25 WILSON spins at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:13 a.m., #8 BRACK pits with a small fire showing at the top of the engine. BRACK quickly exits the car as the crew extinguishes the blaze and BRACK heads for the secondary car #8X. BRACK had earlier radioed his crew about a boost problem and had only completed three laps in the session.

• RED FLAG waves at 10:14 a.m. after #26 TRACY spins off course at Turn 6 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY heads to his Pit to begin his eight-minute delay-of-session penalty.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 10:18 a.m. to resume the session.

• At 10:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #6 da MATTA with a lap of (128.386 mph; 59.053 seconds; ninth lap), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (127.574 mph; 59.429 seconds; sixth lap) and #18 DIXON (127.452 mph; 59.486 seconds; ninth lap).

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:21 a.m. to #27 FRANCHITTI for a Pit Road speed violation. FRANCHITTI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

• At 10:23 a.m., #1 de FERRAN spins exiting Turn 6 and rolls all the way to Turn 7 before righting the car and continuing on course. The rear wings sustained slight damage in the incident. De FERRAN had just logged the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 128.720 mph (58.900 seconds; 12th lap).

• At 10:30 a.m., #40 VASSER is now the fastest with a lap of 128.744 mph (58.889 seconds; 15th lap) , followed by a tie between #6 da MATTA (128.720 mph; 58.900 seconds; 18th lap) and #1 de FERRAN (128.720 mph; 58.900; 12th lap).

• At 10:31 a.m., #39 ANDRETTI spins at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:33 a.m., #7 PAPIS spins at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:34 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER spins at Turn 4 but continues on course.

• At 10:35 a.m., #66 ZANARDI spins off Turn 7 but continues on course.

• At 10:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is again #1 de FERRAN with a lap of 130.764 mph (58.019 seconds; 22nd lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (130.589 mph; 58.057 seconds; 24th lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (129.638; 58.483 seconds; 21st lap).

• At 10:42 a.m., #7 PAPIS runs off course at Turn 4 but continues on course.

• At 10:43 a.m., #39 ANDRETTI slides off-track exiting Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:44 a.m., #55 KANAAN runs off course at Turn 7 but returns to the course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 10:50 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 de FERRAN with his earlier lap of 130.674 mph (58.019 seconds; 22nd lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (130.589 mph; 58.057 seconds; 24th lap) and #3 CASTRONEVES (130.351 mph; 58.163 seconds; 20th lap).

• At 10:54 a.m., #66 ZANARDI spins at Turn 7 but continues on course at Turn 8.

• At 10:56 a.m., #25 WILSON runs off course at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• At 11 a.m., #1 de FERRAN is still the session-fastest with his earlier lap of 130.674 mph (58.019 seconds; 22nd lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (130.625 mph; 58.041 seconds; 35th lap) and #3 CASTRONEVES (130.351 mph; 58.163 seconds; 20th lap).

• At 11:04 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER spins exiting Turn 3 but regains control and continues on course without apparent damage.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:07 a.m. to #22 SERVIA to start the carryover delay-of-session penalty from yesterday's morning test session.

• At 11:10 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 de FERRAN with his earlier lap of 130.674 mph (58.019 seconds; 22nd lap), still followed by #6 da MATTA (130.625 mph; 58.041 seconds; 35th lap) and #4X JUNQUEIRA (130.481 mph; 58.105 seconds; 40th lap).

• At 11:13 a.m., #77 HERTA logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a lap of 130.939 mph (57.902 seconds; 45th lap).

• At 11:14 a.m., #33 TAGLIANI spins off Turn 7 and stalls in the infield grass. A brief fire breaks out at the rear of the car that is quickly extinguished by oncoming CART safety workers.

• CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. with #77 HERTA holding on to the top spot with his earlier lap of 130.938 mph (57.902 seconds; 45th lap), followed by #1 de FERRAN (130.674 mph; 58.019 seconds; 22nd lap) and #26 TRACY (130.652 mph; 58.029 seconds; 34th lap). FedEx Championship series drivers introduced 28 cars to the track in this morning's first practice session with secondary cars utilized by #4X JUNQUEIRA, #8X BRACK, and #51X FERNANDEZ. The field is definitely tightening up as 22 of the 28 cars are within one second in lap times of the quick circuit set by HERTA.

• Trap speeds continue to escalate in this morning's session. Fifth-fastest #27 FRANCHITTI jumps the best Start/Finish trap speed a full 4.5 mph to 177.866 mph, followed by 14th-fastest #5 TAKAGI at 171.887 mph. The slowest trap (Trap 1) is led by session-fastest #77 HERTA with a speed of 100.514 mph, followed by ninth-fastest #33 TAGLIANI at 99.657 mph. Twelfth -fastest #12 GIDLEY makes his first appearance at the top of the trap charts this weekend with a 120.676 mph speed, best at this point on the track for all drivers all weekend, followed by 16th-fastest #17 GUGELMIN at 119.968 mph.

• As the Green Flag approaches for Qualifying, the threat of rain seems to be growing in each radar sweep of the Lake Erie/Downtown Cleveland area. A large low pressure system looms to the northwest; the evidence is already present with thick gray cumulous clouds hanging over the skyscrapers to the west. That makes this afternoon's weather very iffy, rain could easily be falling at any time during today's split-qualifying sessions, scheduled for a 1:45 p.m. start, possibly creating different conditions for the two qualifying groups that can lead to a jumbled grid of fast and not-so-fast drivers side-by-side.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 1:45 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session.

• At 1:47 p.m., CART course observers report that #52 NAKANO's engine is starting to have problems as the driver circles the track. NAKANO subsequently pits his car for inspection as the crew readies the secondary car for use in the session. No times will be forfeited by NAKANO as no timed laps had been earned by the primary car.

• At 1:55 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is #51 NAKANO with a lap of 131.529 mph (57.642 seconds; seventh lap), followed by #12 GIDLEY (130.907 mph; 57.916 seconds; eighth lap) and #17 GUGELMIN (130.398 mph; 58.142 seconds; eighth lap).

• At 2:05 p.m., #51 FERNANDEZ still leads the Group One speedboard with his lap of 131.529 mph; (57.6442 seconds; seventh lap), followed by #12 GIDLEY (130.907 mph; 57.916 seconds; eighth lap) and #77 HERTA (130.398 mph; 58.142 seconds; eighth lap).

• At 2:06 p.m., #77 HERTA moves to second-fastest of Group Two with a speed of 130.934 mph (57.904 seconds; 15th lap.)

• At 2:11 p.m., #17 GUGELMIN logs the fastest Group One speed with a lap of 131.710 mph (57.563 seconds; 19th lap).

• CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2:15 p.m. to finish the Group One qualifying session with #17 GUGELMIN remaining the top Group One driver with a last-lap flyer at 132.185 mph (57.356 seconds; 19th lap), followed by #51 FERNANDEZ (131.815 mph; 57.517 seconds; 20th lap) and #25 WILSON (130.961 mph; 57.892 seconds; 22nd lap).

• The large storm that hovered over the downtown area at the start of the Group One qualifying session has broken up and floated out over Lake Erie, with a small portion coming right over the track and beginning to wet the course one minute before the start of the Group Two session, giving ample meaning to the term “scattered showers.” The Group Two qualifiers are mounted on slick (dry) tires and the cloud cover is dropping the temperatures quickly, but moisture is being felt all around the course as the Green Flag is raised.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group Two session. The drizzle has completely soaked the track at this point of the session, but the drivers are leaving the Pits on slicks.

• At 2:31 p.m. #8 BRACK slides off course at Turn 5 looping a lazy 360-degree spin before catching the car and continuing on course. At the same time, #18 DIXON spins at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

• RED FLAG waves at 2:33 p.m. after #18 DIXON slides off course again and stalls the car, this time at Turn 1.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 2:35 p.m. to resume the Group Two session.

• At 2:39 p.m., #26 TRACY slides off-course at Turn 9 taking a hard ride before recovering and continuing on course.

• At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two driver is #20 MORENO with a lap of 113.221 mph (1:06.963; third lap; 14th overall), followed by #6 da MATTA (110.089 mph; 1:08.201; fifth lap; 15th overall) and #39 ANDRETTI (109.537 mph; 1:09.215; 16th overall).

• Also at 2:40 p.m., the track is starting to dry out quickly and #11 FITTIPALDI is one of the first of several drivers to mount slicks for the remainder of the session.

• At 2:45 p.m. as the Group Two lap speeds start to escalate, the rain returns along with a unhealthy dose of lightning, spreading from the first turn area and across the track.

• At 2:47 p.m. after several large lightning discharges, CART Race Control announces that the session will Red Flag in 1 minute 10 seconds.

• RED FLAG waves at 2:48 p.m. to suspend the session for weather-related conditions with 14 minutes, 16 seconds of Green Time run so far for Group Two. CART Qualifying Rules specify that each Group has a guaranteed 20 minutes of Green Flag time. Therefore, when the track goes back to Green at the end of the lightning, the drivers will have guaranteed five minutes, 44 seconds of Green Time at a minimum.

• At 2:50 p.m. and under the Red Flag, the fastest Group Two driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a soggy lap of 126.776 mph (59.803 seconds; seventh lap; 14th overall), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (125.283 mph; 1:00.516; 15th overall) and #4X JUNQUEIRA (122.628 mph; 1:01.826; ninth lap; 16th overall).

• At 3:08 p.m., high winds from the storm topple some scaffolding at the outside of Turn 6. Some of the debris winds up on the track side of the wall, and therefore must be cleaned up before the session can start. The lightning has subsided but the rain continues to fall and water is standing on some areas of the track.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 3:23 p.m. to resume the Group Two session.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 3:25 p.m. to #27 FRANCHITTI for a Pit Road speed violation. FRANCHITTI subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

• At 3:28 p.m., the 20-minute guaranteed Green Time is satisfied for Group Two. The top three Group Two drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:23 p.m. report.

• At 3:34 p.m., #6 da MATTA spins and continues at Turn 6.

• CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3:35 p.m. to end the Group Two session with #27 FRANCHITTI with a soggy lap of 126.776 mph (59.803 seconds; seventh lap; 14th overall), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (125.283 mph; 1:00.516; 15th overall) and #4X JUNQUEIRA (122.628 mph; 1:01.826; ninth lap; 16th overall).

• At 3:35:30 p.m., #20 MORENO spins and continues at Turn 6.

• MAURICIO GUGELMIN wins the Pole for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar in his Nextel Toyota/Reynard! This is the Brazilian's first Pole of the 2001 season and the fourth of his CART career. This is also the likeable pilot's first Pole since 1997 when he set the World Closed Course Speed record of 240.942 mph at Fontana. This is also the second Pole of the year for engine manufacturer Toyota.

• ADRIAN FERNANDEZ sits second on the grid in his Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Reynard. This is the Mexican's season-best start, his previous best start being at sixth at Nazareth.

• Rookie MAX WILSON sits third in his Winner B2B.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola. This is the season-best start for WILSON, his previous best coming last week at Portland.

• FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 26 cars to the track in this afternoon's qualifying with secondary cars utilized by #52X NAKANO, #4X JUNQUEIRA, #8X BRACK, #3X CASTRONEVES, #1 de FERRAN, #7X PAPIS, and #18X DIXON.

• MAURICIO GUGELMIN: "Normally in these situations, we know we've got two different sessions, and we know we have to put in something very special up there. Our main focus was to do a good, clean, fast lap. The situation today with the rain, we knew we would be up there, but we didn't think we'd stay on pole. Hopefully, we can come up with a solution that is fair for everyone. I'm very pleased with how the car ran here. We showed last year we could do that, and I'm very happy to be on pole. But I would like to see changes in the (qualifying) format to make it fair for everybody."

• ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: "We were very happy with the car since we unloaded. Unfortunately, on Saturday morning, we lost the turbo in the primary car. We didn't have the same things in the backup car, and there were some changes I would have liked to make, but we didn't have time. I knew we had a good car in qualifying, but Mauricio was also very strong. I don't feel bad about the guys in the back to be honest. I've had good cars before and had to be in the back. The guys are so close, there's maybe half a second between the top 15."

• MAX WILSON: "The guys have been working very hard. Last weekend it showed when we got our first points. Before we were struggling with engines and other things. The race track is very difficult for us, we've never been here before, and I spent most of the day yesterday learning the track. We changed the car a lot, especially between the morning practice and qualifying, but we definitely found better setups for the car. We got lucky that it rained on the second group, but the car was good. Maybe we would have been in the Top 10 or 12. That's the first time we had better track conditions than them (the second group), we're still at a disadvantage."

-Brian Tate

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tim Green