CHAMPCAR/CART: Detroit a frustrating day for Mercedes teams

Max Papis topped the time sheets Friday at provisional qualifying for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, round seven of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Papis' hot lap of 73.903 seconds (114.280 mph) bested the 25-car field slated...

Max Papis topped the time sheets Friday at provisional qualifying for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, round seven of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Papis' hot lap of 73.903 seconds (114.280 mph) bested the 25-car field slated for Sunday's 84-lap race over the 2.346-mile temporary street circuit on Belle Isle.

The four Mercedes-Benz-powered teams were frustrated by circumstances that prevented them from showing the improving performance of their equipment. Mark Blundell, who scored a top-10 finish at the Long Beach street race in April, led the contingent with a lap in 76.116 seconds (110.957 mph), which placed him 17th on the provisional starting grid. Blundell lost valuable track time due to an oil leak in the footwell of his PacWest Motorola Mercedes. Traffic and yellow flags during the session further prevented the British driver from clocking a quick lap.

"I couldn't get any grip under my heels to control the pedals," said Blundell, showing off his wet racing shoes after exiting the race car. "I had to come into the pits to fix it. That, along with some unhelpful traffic, meant we couldn't put a quick lap on the board. There is a lot more in this package than what we've shown today. It's frustrating, but I am happy with the improvements that Mercedes has been making and the guys are responding very well to it."

Tony Kanaan, who was third-quickest in the early portion of the morning practice session, made light contact with the wall during provisional qualifying. Kanaan's fastest lap in his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes was 76.760 seconds (110.026 mph). Mauricio Gugelmin, Blundell's teammate, qualified 19th in his Nextel Mercedes with a lap time of 76.785 seconds (109.990 mph).

"My race car wasn't working today," said Gugelmin. "You get one good lap with each set of tires on this race track, and the temperature and the pressures have to be right. We have more work to do tomorrow."

Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes driver Michel Jourdain Jr. qualified 22nd (77.821 seconds/108.526 mph), while Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Mercedes pilot Luiz Garcia Jr. was 25th (81.823 seconds/103.218 mph).

Final qualifying will be held Saturday at 1:45 p.m. EDT, and the green flag for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit waves Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT (ESPN).

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn