By Kristian Steenstrup - Motorsport.com SURFERS PARADISE, Australia - Gil de Ferran continued to purse the CART FedEx championship by posting the fastest time in Friday's provisional qualifying session. His lap of 109.302 miles per hour (1 ...
By Kristian Steenstrup - Motorsport.com
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia - Gil de Ferran continued to purse the CART FedEx championship by posting the fastest time in Friday's provisional qualifying session. His lap of 109.302 miles per hour (1 minute, 32.057 seconds) on the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit was more an a half a second faster than Montoya's best effort, and almost a seond faster than Vasser.
The first qualifying session started under lightly overcast skies here in Surfers Paradise. The weather had cleared considerably from the morning and it was perfect for setting fast times. Without a strong sun the temperature stayed low and the first (slower) group quickly set about bringing their times down from the morning. Due to some unexpectedly slower times in the last race at Houston there were some strong names in the supposedly slower session such as Kenny Brack, Max Papis and Adrian Fernandez and predictably these three drivers leapt to the top of the times.
The progress was interrupted half way through this session when there was a red flag, apparently to retrieve the stalled car of Jason Bright who had locked up going into ANA corner at the end of the front straight. The rescue team towed him back out on the track and he bump started to get going again. A close escape for him as there is a lot of media attention on his progress and it would have been a disappointment if he could not show his potential here. Bright was second slowest at the time, ahead of only the troubled Garcia Jr.
After they returned to the track from the delay Patrick Carpentier put in a time (1:33.798) quick enough to leap frog a number of other players and grab first place in the session ahead of Brack (1:33.865) with seven minutes to go. Brack tried to respond but only succeeded in nosing the car into the wall at the very end of the session so remained in second place. Max Papis was third on (1:34.132), followed by Michel Jourdain Jr., Adrian Fernandez and Mauricio Gugelmin. In the end Jason Bright only completed 9 laps for a best of 1:38.768 in 13th and last place. He will need to get a lot more track time if he is to make the grid tomorrow.
A short break ensued as the second (faster) group prepared to come out. With once again overcast, cool conditions the drivers were looking forward to some fast times even on the very 'green' track. If the sun comes out Saturday, or worse still the rain came back tomorrow it would be this afternoon's times that count for pole.
Very quickly the expected strong showing from teams Penske, Green and Ganassi was in evidence. Within six laps Dario Franchitti's Kool Green Reynard Honda had hit the top over taking The Penske Reynard Honda of de Ferran, Ganassi's Toyota Lola of Vasser and the other Kool Green car of Tracy. Montoya was in fifth at this point, but his team mate Jimmy Vasser went fastest (1:33.052) on his seventh lap to add some more credentials to his job application that is no doubt being floated around the paddock. It also underlined that it is not only Hondas that go well on street circuits, the occasionally desperately driven Toyota is a contender.
Tracy caused the session to be stopped with 11 minutes to go when in a similar mistake to Jason Bright's earlier error he went straight on at ANA corner. But when the session resumed there were no changes until, with 3 minutes to go Andretti jumped to fourth and de Ferran went to first. Andretti's next lap proved too extreme as he out braked himself into the ANA corner (everyone's nemesis today) and went straight on causing yet another red flag delay which brought the session to a close. De Ferran sat on top with 1:32.057, following him was Juan Montoya (1:32684) and Jimmy Vasser (1:33.052). Next were Andretti, Kanaan, Franchitti and Andretti's teammate Christian Fittipaldi. Tracy, da Matta and Carpentier completed the top 10.
In later comments it transpired that Jimmy Vasser had backed off on his fastest lap because he thought he was well ahead of his then fastest lap when he came up behind Helio Castroneves and decided to follow him for the balance of the lap. This proved a tactical mistake as not only did he lose that lap, but also the red came out after he had slowed to give himself more room and so he missed the opportunity for a fastest in session. Gil de Ferran summed up the general feeling when he pointed out that today doesn't mean that much as they do it all again tomorrow. If it does not rain overnight to clean the track off, and the weather stays clear tomorrow the times could come down to the low 1:31's