CHAMPCAR/CART: Da Matta fastest in first session on slippery Denver track

Cristiano da Matta was fastest in the opening practice at the first Grand Prix of Denver, setting the first track record with a time of 1:02.506 seconds at 94.858 mph. Adrian Fernandez was second, almost 2 tenths of a second slower. Third was ...

Cristiano da Matta was fastest in the opening practice at the first Grand Prix of Denver, setting the first track record with a time of 1:02.506 seconds at 94.858 mph. Adrian Fernandez was second, almost 2 tenths of a second slower. Third was Scott Dixon, his Lola wearing new silver and red paint of his new sponsor, local brewer Coors. The fast times were all set at the end of a busy session which saw the first two-thirds of the session halted by multiple red flags. The session also ended with a red about one minute early when several cars were stranded in the runoff areas after their drivers lost traction on the slippery track.

Before the session could get fully underway, the Honda engine in Franchitti's Team Green Lola expired to bring things to a halt for a cleanup. Even after that no one could establish a good rhythm due to the sandy condition of the course. First Tony Kanaan suffered a couple of spins that he was able to recover from, and then Patrick Carpentier stalled after his spin to cause another red flag. A third red flag stoppage was called to restart Christian Fittipaldi's stalled car. No sooner did the session restart, than Paul Tracy spun and damaged the rear wing and left rear corner of his Lola.

By this time, over an hour had elapsed and only Mario Dominguez had gotten more than 20 laps on the short 1.622-mile street circuit. Dominguez was third-fastest at this point in the session, with only the Ganassi Racing teammates Kenny Brack and Scott Dixon ahead of him on the chart.

An interesting contretemps occurred when Fittipaldi and Shinji Nakano had on-track contact. Afterward, Fittipaldi slowed on the track and blocked Nakano from getting by him with several swerves. Once he finally let Nakano alongside, he signaled his displeasure with the Fernandez Racing driver with vigorous hand gestures. They finally continued after other cars began to back up behind them.

As the last fifteen minutes were run without any more session-stopping incidents (until the end, that is), the drivers got down to serious work of finding the fastest way around the brand new circuit. First, Adrian Fernandez set fast time, and then da Matta topped it. Franchitti, now out in his backup car, set the third-fastest time, but Brack and Dixon were able to come back with times to beat Franchitti's time.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Mario Dominguez , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing