CHAMPCAR/CART: de Ferran leads the way at Mid-Ohio

by David Reininger - Lexington, Ohio (August 12, 2000) - Gil de Ferran will start from the pole position in Sunday's Miller Lite 200, despite ending Saturday's final qualifying session by flipping his Marlboro Team Penske ...

by David Reininger -

Lexington, Ohio (August 12, 2000) - Gil de Ferran will start from the pole position in Sunday's Miller Lite 200, despite ending Saturday's final qualifying session by flipping his Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Reynard in turn one. Neither de Ferran, who was unhurt in the incident, nor his Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, who will start second, were able to improve upon their times set in qualifying on Friday.

De Ferran's third pole this season is the 100th pole position for Firestone tires since entering CART competition in 1995 and the 46th pole for Honda. Having entered the series in 1994, this is Honda's 119th CART race as an engine manufacturer.

De Ferran's best lap, timed at 65.347 in yesterday's qualifying session, tied the track record set last year by Dario Franchitti.

"It's great to be sitting here on the pole, but I would prefer to have done it without the accident. I went out to start a hot lap, but a rear wheel locked up as I went into turn one, I don't know why. After that, it was impact control mode. I tried to keep the car in a slide, but it came all the way around and I headed for the wall. I thought the impact would be quite hard, but in fact it was rather soft."

"The fact the car turned over was no big deal."

After sliding through the gravel trap, the rear of the car made impact with the tire wall and flipped over. De Ferran was unhurt but the car suffered damage to the rear of the car.

With two red flags during the second group of qualifiers, Castroneves was unable to improve his Friday time, putting both Marlboro Team Penske cars on the front row for Sunday's race using Friday's times. "Today in qualifying, there was a red flag and I lost my rhythm on my first set of tires," said Castroneves. "On my second set, I hit a lot of traffic at the end of the lap, so I pitted to cool the tires. Then I went out again and the car felt really strong, but the red flag was out again and that ended our session."

Dario Franchitti improved his Friday time by over three tenths of a second to take the third starting position on Sunday's grid. "We started out with a very different setup on the Kool car than we ran yesterday and it really didn't work," said Franchitti, who was eighth fastest in this morning's session. "So we went back to what we ran yesterday. We made a couple of small changes and it seemed to work. I'd prefer to be on the pole like we have for the last couple years, but I think we've got a good race car. And should be in good shape for the race."

Team Rahal teammates, Kenny Brack and Max Papis will start on the outside of the second and third rows respectively. Brack's fastest lap, set today in the Shell Ford Reynard, was .241seconds faster than the lap set by Papis. "Fourth isn't bad for the first time here," said Brack.

Actually it was seven years ago, in the Barber Saab series, that Brack last raced on the 2.258-mile road circuit. "I really couldn't remember the track that well," Brack confessed. "In fact, I had a tough time finding this place on Thursday. But I am lucky to have an engineer like Don Halliday and he really helped me. I didn't have a picture of Mid-Ohio in my mind so I relied on Don."

"The last lap was about a tenth off going into turn three and then we had the red flag. I don't know whether it would've been a lap that would've gotten us any further up the grid, (but) we're happy where we are."

It was four years ago that Max Papis made his CART debut at Mid-Ohio. His sixth place starting position in the Miller Lite Ford-powered Reynard is his best ever at Mid-Ohio's natural terrain road circuit.

"The first set of tires were very, very fast and on the second set we tried to go for lesser downforce to try for the pole. I'm happy for the team, I think we did a very good job. We tried to go for the pole position and unfortunately we didn't (get it), but it's no big deal."

"I think we can be very competitive on Sunday," said Papis, whose team owner, Bobby Rahal, has earned eight podium finishes at this track. "It's tough race here. Maybe the hardest of the year for the drivers. Training will come into play late in the race and I hope I'll have an advantage then."

Starting fifth, splitting the Team Rahal cars on the grid, is Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the Big Kmart Ford-powered Lola. Fittipaldi shaved 16 one-hundredths of a second off his Friday qualifying time on a track where the Brazilian has struggled in the past.

"There is not a lot more in the car," Fittipaldi said after qualifying. "It wasn't a perfect lap, but it was close. If I was in the first two rows I would be a little happier but this is the best car I have ever had at Mid-Ohio, so that makes me happy."

"I really want to have a good race here and win some races this season. The Championship is out of limits now so I want to win a race or two before the season is over. We have been competitive but haven't scored a lot of points in the races for one reason or another."

Christiano da Matta, winner of the last CART race, two weeks ago in Chicago, will start seventh in the Pioneer Electronics/WorldCom Toyota-powered Reynard. "I am happy that I improved one position from yesterday, but of course I was hoping for more. I didn't have the push problem that I had yesterday, but I had some problems with grip."

"Tomorrow will be a long, tough race. We need to have a clean start, and consistently run fast laps, and we should be in good shape."

Notes: This is the 18th consecutive year the CART FeEx Series has competed at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. CART first competed at the 13-turn, 2.25-mile permanent road circuit in 1980. No event was held in 1981 or 1982.

In the Barber Dodge Series, Thed Bjork of Vretstorp, Sweden, set a new track record of 1:23.676, in taking the pole position for Sunday afternoon's race. The Barber Dodge race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:30 p.m.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Kenny Brack , Thed Björk
Teams Team Penske