CHAMPCAR/CART: Detroit Friday track notes

By Mark Tate o Good Morning from The Motor City of the United States; Detroit, Michigan and the Belle Isle 2.346-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit for Round Seven of the FedEx Championship Series season, the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of...

By Mark Tate

o Good Morning from The Motor City of the United States; Detroit, Michigan and the Belle Isle 2.346-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit for Round Seven of the FedEx Championship Series season, the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. Sunday's 72-lap; 168.912-mile race starts a string of four straight road/street contests that will challenge the best of the fastest racing series in the world. After completing the short oval portion of the 2001 chase for the FedEx Series Championship, the teams now prepare for the radically different racing that presents itself. Champ Car engineers will now focus on handling and driveability and less on the raw horsepower and aerodynamics that are the hallmarks of CART's oval track repertoire. And there's no bigger leap into the opposite of oval track racing than Belle Isle's demanding 14-turn, 2.346-mile temporary street course. It's tight, with little room for error with the cars nearing 180 mph on several areas of the track. There are basically three areas considered passing spots on the course. The longest straight exits Turn 2 and runs over a half-mile leading into a 90-degree right hand Turn 3 and the second-longest straight exits Turn 6 on the backstretch. The final straight is actually a long bend from Turn 13, angling nearly a half-mile before reaching the Start/Finish line where the drivers crank hard right for another 90-degree right. Between Turns 3 and 6, four turns of varying degrees push the drivers to control their power until they can exit Turn 6. Turns 9 thru 13 again present the twisting course that makes the Belle Isle track the challenge it is.

o Today's Champ Car on track activities kick off with a one hour, 45-minute test session at 9:30 a.m., followed by the afternoon test session at 1:30; on-track for 90 minutes. The Saturday schedule again features the first official practice session taking to the track at 10 a.m. for 75 minutes, followed by qualifying at 1:45 p.m. The qualifying sessions will be the split-group format with the groups split by their respective points totals with the higher points-possessing drivers in the second group. Sunday's schedule has the traditional 30-minute morning warm-up at 10 a.m. followed by the start of the Tenneco Grand Prix of Detroit at 2 p.m.

o #7 PAPIS will have to sit out the last eight minutes of this morning's session to serve a delay-of- session penalty earned in an off-track excursion in the Friday morning session of the last road/street course, Long Beach.

o GREEN FLAG waves at 9:45 a.m. to start the first session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 94 degrees F., an ambient temperature of 89 degrees F., and a bodacious amount of humidity at the start of the session. The 14-minute delay in getting the session started was due to a clean-up effort necessitated by an engine failure in one of the support series just before the start of the Champ Car session.

o At 9:55 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #18 DIXON with a lap of 100.509 mph (1:24.028; second lap), followed by #12 MINASSIAN (98.921 mph; 1:25.377; fourth lap) and #11X FITTIPALDI (94.923 mph; 1:28.973; third lap).

o At 10:05 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #11X FITTIPALDI with a lap of 103.063 mph (1:21.946; seventh lap), followed by #12 MINASSIAN (102.807 mph; 1:22.150; eighth lap) and #17 GUGELMIN (102.106 mph; 1:22.714; fourth lap.

o RED FLAG waves at 10:08 a.m. after #4 JUNQUEIRA slides into the outside tire barrier exiting Turn 12 and makes contact with the left side of the car against the tires. The driver is uninjured but he certainly rearranged the tire barrier. CART safety workers get the car restarted and JUNQUEIRA continues on course to his pit while the safety crew repairs the tire barrier. JUNQUEIRA will be assessed the standard eight-minute penalty for delay of the session. The penalty will start at the re-appearance of the Green Flag.

o At 10:15 a.m. and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is again #18 DIXON with a lap of 106.837 mph (1:19.051; fifth lap), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (105.603 mph; 1:19.975; fifth) and #4 JUNQUEIRA (103.963 mph; 1:21.237; fourth lap).

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

o At 10:25 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is again #11X FITTIPALDI with a lap of 107.825 mph (1:18.327; 13th lap), followed by #18 DIXON (107.470 mph; 1:18.586; 10th lap) and #17 GUGELMIN (107.246 mph; 1:18.750; ninth lap).

o At 10:35 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #40 VASSER with a lap of 108.454 mph (1:17.873; eighth lap), followed by #11X FITTIPALDI (107.825 mph; 1:18.202; 13th lap) and #17 GUGELMIN (107.561 mph; 1:18.519; 14th lap).

o At 10:45 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is now #6 da MATTA with a lap of 109.167 mph (1:17.364; ninth lap), followed by #20 MORENO (109.147 mph; 1:17.378; 11th lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (108.778 mph; 1:17.641; fourth lap).

o At 10:55 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is again #40 VASSER with a lap of 110.184 mph (1:16.650; 12th lap), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (110.101 mph; 1:16.708; eighth lap) and #6 da MATTA (109.167 mph; 1:17.364; ninth lap).

o At 11:05 a.m., #40 VASSER is again the leader with a faster lap of 110.216 mph (1:16.628; 13th lap), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (110.216 mph; 1:16.628; 13th lap) and #6 da MATTA (109.912 mph; 1:16.840; 16th lap).

o BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:07 a.m. to #7 PAPIS to begin serving his Long-Beach induced delay-of-session penalty.

o CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. with #40 VASSER the session's best at 110.682 mph (1:16.305; 16th lap), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (110.420 mph; 1:16.486; 20th lap) and #6 da MATTA (110.347 mph; 1:16.537; 18th lap). The top six drivers are separated by less than one second in lap times.

o Here on the racecourse at Belle Isle, the trap speeds are registered at the Start/Finish line (SF Trap), the entrance into Turn 3 (Trap 1) and the entrance into Turn 8 (Trap 2). All three sites feature the drivers standing on the accelerator down long straights, then undertaking heavy braking for the upcoming corners. The location of the traps should pick up the cars at the peak of speed before the respective turns. #20 MORENO and #17 GUGELMIN tied as the fastest drivers at the Start/Finish with a clocking of 174.066 mph. MORENO is getting the power down the best as the Brazilian also leads at the Trap 1 (Turn 3) site with a speed of 176.906 mph and the Trap 2 (Turn 8) at 176.808 mph.

o Many Ford and Honda-powered teams sat out much of the morning practice session as the result of a mandated extension of the housing in the manifold pressure relief valve. CART is conducting on-going discussions with the two manufacturers in an effort to bring a mutually satisfactory resolution to this issue.

o All FedEx Championship Series engine manufacturers were notified earlier this week that all Champ Cars would be fitted with the extended manifold pressure relief valve, beginning today at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. The three-quarter-inch extension, situated at the base of the manifold pressure relief valve, was mandated to reduce the potential influence of airflow regarding the operation of the valve.

The valves, which have a maximum allowable intake manifold pressure of 37 inches, are provided by CART to all competitors each race weekend. Kirk Russell, CART Vice President of Competition: "As the sanctioning body, CART has the obligation to implement any changes it deems necessary to ensure the integrity of the sport as well as for the best interest of all competitors. The valves are the property of CART and maintained by the sanctioning body to ensure the operation of all valves is as identical as possible."

The components to modify the valve were manufactured by Metalore, the same manufacturer of the CART manifold pressure relief valve.

Jeff Horton, CART Vice President of Electronics: "The first run of parts was manufactured in time for the CART Select Open Test held Tuesday at Michigan Speedway with five teams. All three manufacturers--Ford, Honda and Toyota--were involved in the test. At the time of the test, the engine manufacturers were informed of our intentions that the component would be implemented this weekend. The modification will remain in effect until further notice."

The teams that participated in the test were Newman/Haas Racing (Toyota), Team KOOL Green (Honda), Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing (Ford-Cosworth), Team Rahal (Ford-Cosworth) and Marlboro Team Penske (Honda).

Note: Friday practice sessions at all events were designed to replace in-season testing prior to the 2001 season and therefore the recorded times are not carried forward and have no bearing on the remainder of the weekend's activities.

o Good Afternoon from the Raceway at Belle Isle for the Friday afternoon test session. The temperature has picked up considerably during the lunch break and the drivers will battle a lack of traction, or grip, as they run the afternoon test.

o GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start the afternoon session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 121 degrees F. (49 C.) and an ambient temperature of 92 degrees F. (33 C.) at the start of the test.

o At 1:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #17 GUGELMIN with a lap of 109.629 mph (1:17.038; fourth lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (109.629 mph; 1:17.038; fourth lap) and #40 VASSER (109.417 mph; 1:17.417; fourth lap).

o At 1:41 p.m., #26 TRACY makes glancing contact with the right, front wheel against the inside wall at Turn 9. The wheel breaks and TRACY continues slowly on course to his Pit Box as the crew readies the secondary car.

o At 1:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is still #17 GUGELMIN with a faster lap of 111.238 mph (1:15.924; 10th lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (110.213 mph; 1:16.630; eighth lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (110.078 mph; 1:16.724; ninth lap).

o RED FLAG waves at 1:51 p.m. after CART course observers report that debris from a dislodged manhole cover has spread possible tire-cutting material onto the course. CART safety workers quickly tend to the problem and get the debris cleaned up.

o GREEN FLAG waves at 1:59 p.m. to resume the session.

o At 2 p.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #17 GUGELMIN with his earlier lap of 111.238 mph (1:15.924; 10th lap), followed by #6 da MATTA (110.213 mph; 1:16.630; eighth lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (110.078 mph; 1:16.724; ninth lap).

o At 2:10 p.m., the fastest driver is now #4 JUNQUEIRA with a lap of 112.073 mph (1:15.358; 15th lap), followed by #20 MORENO (112.070 mph; 1:15.360; 13th lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (112.031 mph; 1:15.386; 15th lap).

o At 2:11 p.m., #7 PAPIS brushes the wall with the wheels at Turn 12 and continues to his pit without damage to the car.

o At 2:20 p.m., 50 minutes into the session, #4 JUNQUEIRA is now the fastest driver with a lap of 112.258 mph (1:15.234; 17th lap), followed by #20 MORENO (112.070 mph; 1:15.360; 13th lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (112.031 mph; 1:15.386; 15th lap).

o At 2:30 p.m., one hour into the session, the top three drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 2:20 p.m. report.

o RED FLAG waves at 2:34 p.m. after #55 KANAAN spins around at Turn 3 and rear-ends the tire barrier at the outside of the track. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains damage to the rear and suspension.

o At 2:40 p.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #4 JUNQUEIRA with his earlier lap of 112.258 mph (1:15.234; 17th lap), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (112.085 mph; 1:15.350; 20th lap) and #20 MORENO (112.070 mph; 1:15.360; 13th lap.)

o RED FLAG at 2:43 p.m. after #3 CASTRONEVES spins at Turn 3 and makes contact with the rear of the car against the tire barrier. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains slight damage to the rear. CART safety workers get the car restarted and CASTRONEVES continues to his Pit.

o GREEN FLAG waves at 2:50 p.m. to resume the session. The top three drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 2:40 p.m.

o At 2:55 p.m., #7 PAPIS makes contact with the wall between Turns 7 and 8, cutting down the left front tire in the process. PAPIS continues on course to his Pit Box.

o At 2:59 p.m., #66 ZANARDI spins into the sand at the outside of Turn 3 and stalls the car. At the same time, #16 JOURDAIN Jr. spins at Turn 8 and stalls driver's left at the exit of the corner.

o Again at 2:59 p.m., #32 CARPENTIER logs the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 112.419 mph (1:15.126) on his 28th circuit, but is immediately eclipsed by #27 FRANCHITTI with a clocking of 112.852 mph (1:14.838), also on the Scotsman's 28th session lap.

o CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the test day with #27 FRANCHITTI hanging on for the top spot with his lap of 112.852 mph (1:14.838), followed by #32 CARPENTIER (112.419 mph; 1:15.126) and #4 JUNQUEIRA (112.258 mph; 1:15.234). The top 12 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 31 cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized #18X DIXON, #22X SERVIA, #55X KANAAN, #20X MORENO, and #25X WILSON.

o Trap speeds in this afternoon's session again point out the importance of handling on the tight Belle Isle track. #20 MORENO again leads the drivers at the Start/Finish line with a speed of 175.554, followed by a three-way tie at 174.066 mph between #77 HERTA, #5 TAKAGI, and #52 NAKANO. HERTA leads at the Trap 1 with a speed of 178.072 mph, followed by #20 MORENO at 177.293 mph. The Trap 2 speed is owned again by #20 MORENO followed by HERTA. Yet MORENO sits only sixth-best while HERTA is a disappointing 18th-fastest!

o Quotes from today's top three drivers follow:

o DARIO FRANCHITTI: "We were just working on the car throughout the day. We missed the morning session, but it didn't particularly hurt us, because the car was good right off the truck. We came up with a car we were reasonably happy with, and we did a good lap. I had a better lap going, but then (Alex) Zanardi brought out the caution. It was a good session and (engineer) Iain (Watt) did a good job with the car. It's very, very hot out there. I was opening my visor trying to get some air, but you can't get much rest from it. It's not such a problem to drive around. When you sit in the pits, it's very different, and very hot. You just want to get out of the car. But that's why I'm out there on the bike or running every day so that I'm trained for it."

o PATRICK CARPENTIER: "I really like that course, you can keep a lot of rhythm. For me it's a very good circuit. In all the past years, our car was better on the ovals, but it's different this year. Today was the first day this year that we didn't have a problem, and I'm glad, because the team needed it. We've got a good car and we've got the best engineers, so we should be fast. I'm very happy to be here today, and I hope I'm here tomorrow and a lot more this season. Today feels like a birthday or Christmas for me. I'm happy for Ford. I'm very happy we could put it up front."

o BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: "For sure, to do a test on a road course before a race after you haven't been on a road course for a long time is good. At Mid-Ohio, I did about five laps and I was running very fast. Today was a tough day because it was very hot and the car was really difficult at first. We changed the car a lot during the first session and between sessions. I ran new tires early in the second session and I was P1 with 50 minutes to go. I think Team Target did a very good job for me. To come back from a bad car, I'm really pleased in the team and the car."

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske , Team Zakspeed