CHAMPCAR/CART: Firestone Portland pre-race

Rain or Shine, Firestone Is Ready for Portland PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) -In the last six years, wet weather has been a factor in two CART races at Portland International Raceway. In both 1996 and '97, when the permanent road course was ...

Rain or Shine, Firestone Is Ready for Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) -In the last six years, wet weather has been a factor in two CART races at Portland International Raceway. In both 1996 and '97, when the permanent road course was drenched, drivers slipped off their Firestone Firehawk slicks for Firehawk rain tires, continuing to put on a great show for the Portland fans.

If it should rain this weekend, the Firestone Racing program is ready.

"I remember Alex Zanardi, when he won here in '96, saying his car was running like a Stradivarius violin," says Firestone Racing Motorsports Project Supervisor Joe Barbieri. "Mark Blundell won in '97 in a record tight finish that had the fans on their feet. Both Alex and Mark had a competitive advantage in their Firestone tires when the track was at its wettest, and that said a lot about what Firestone engineers had accomplished."

The Firestone brand had been absent from the top forms of open-wheel competition for 20 years, returning to CART in 1995. In the `96 season, when Zanardi won at Portland, the Firestone Racing program would claim 10 victories in 16 CART competitions - and the Portland race provided dramatic proof the Firestone-equipped drivers could take on any kind of weather conditions and win.

"Pardon the pun, but that was a watershed year for us," Barbieri says. "We won the most races, earned the most poles and demonstrated that we had a great tire for rainy racing. The win at Portland provided additional enthusiasm and motivation for our program. I guess that's why we love coming back to Portland every year; it's a great place to race if you're prepared for its challenges."

The 1.969-mile permanent road course can be tough enough when it's dry; when it's wet, it offers a whole new set of demands for tire engineers. For this weekend's competition, the Firestone Racing program will supply each team seven sets of dry-condition tires and up to four sets of rain tires if needed. The compound and construction of both the wet and dry tires are identical to those provided for the CART race in Monterrey, Mexico.

-Firestone-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Zanardi , Mark Blundell