Recovering well from the painful injuries that sidelined him a few weeks ago, Adrian Fernandez today won the point awarded to the fastest driver in each CART qualifying session. The award also gives another advantage - a guaranteed front row...
Recovering well from the painful injuries that sidelined him a few weeks ago, Adrian Fernandez today won the point awarded to the fastest driver in each CART qualifying session. The award also gives another advantage - a guaranteed front row start for Sunday's race on the streets of Denver. Fernandez' lap establishes the official qualifying lap record at 1 minute, 2.073 seconds (95.520 mph.) on the new circuit. Christian Fittipaldi was almost three tenths of a second slower in second position at the end of the 35 minute session.
The surface was treacherous today, with many drivers spinning, sliding - brakes locked - into the runoff areas, and even bumping the new street circuit's tire barriers. Tony Kanaan set today's third-fastest time, despite losing his best lap to a penalty for bring out the red flag with a spin during the session. He very nearly lost another fast time for a second spin near the end of the session (this one knocking the tail wing from his car), but Bruno Junqueira parked his Lola into the turn one tires to bring the session to an early close, and the red flag penalty was given to Junqueira instead. Junqueira was sixth fastest in today's session, behind Scott Dixon and Cristiano da Matta. The top ten was filled out by Oriol Servia, Jimmy Vasser, Kenny Brack and Michael Andretti.
The inaugural CART Grand Prix of Denver should be an exciting race, as the drivers expect even more difficulty on race day. The thin air in Denver's high altitude will cause difficulties in the race for engine and especially brake cooling. That, combined with the slippery surface of the temporary circuit, has the drivers expecting a mistake-filled race with a good chance for a win for the driver that has the cleanest run to the finish. "I see brakes as the big issue," said Kanaan. "We have the biggest brake ducts we can possibly have, the most cooling we can have, and we are already having some brake issues. In the race, running behind people, they will have a tendency to run hotter"
The drivers commented that the new circuit reminded them of the Houston street track used from 1998-2001, and really did not drive like any of the CART series' current street venues. Fernandez likened the grip situation to that which the CART drivers faced in Monterrey, Mexico at the first event of the season. "This is a little bit like Mexico, but with more bumps because it's a street course. You just have to get a rhythm, because between the slippery and the bumps there is not much there. If you tend to out brake yourself, it's easy to lose the rear."
The second qualifying session for the CART Grand Prix of Denver will get the green flag tomorrow at 1:30 pm local (Mountain) time.