RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (April 28, 2000) - Target/Chip Ganassi driver Juan Montoya, the reigning FedEx Championship Series champion, began pursuit of his second pole position of the season Friday by posting the fastest lap in the opening day of ...
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (April 28, 2000) - Target/Chip Ganassi driver Juan Montoya, the reigning FedEx Championship Series champion, began pursuit of his second pole position of the season Friday by posting the fastest lap in the opening day of practice for the Rio 200 at Nelson Piquet International Raceway.
Montoya, who captured the pole for the rescheduled May 27 event at Nazareth, posted a top lap of 172.406 miles per hour (38.922 seconds) in a Target Toyota Lola during the afternoon session on the 1.864-mile Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway oval. Montoya, the defending Rio 200 champion, will chase the pole, along with 24 other Champ Car qualifiers, when pole qualifying begins at 1 p.m. local time (noon ET).
Experience apparently was not a factor in the opening practice day as Montoya, in his second year, was followed by a pair of rookies - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal and Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing - in rounding out the top three. Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) was second with a lap of 171.136 mph (39.211) and Tagliani third with a lap of 171.005 mph (39.241). Both are seeking season-best starts. Brack's current best is fifth at the season opener in Homestead while Tagliani's best of fourth also came in the season opener.
A pair of Brazilians rounded out the top five led by the defending polesitter Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing. Fittipaldi, whose first and only career pole came here, posted a top lap of 170.865 mph (39.273). Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castro-Neves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) followed with a lap of 170.553 mph (39.345). Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, the current championship points leader, was 10th fastest with a lap of 169.335 mph (39.628).
The top 22 in practice were separated by less than a second.
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "This morning wasn't great, I wasn't happy with the car. We were late to get the car on track, then we made some changes and the car kept getting better and better and better. I couldn't believe it, you know. I think things are very promising for tomorrow. The key here is to have a nice balanced car to go quickly. You need a lot of stability in braking. Being here is a second time is a big help."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "I guess like everyone else is saying, it's an oval, but it's a road course at the same time. It's very exciting and I'm looking forward to the race. We'd be looking very good if Juan [Montoya} wouldn't be here, but really, we're looking OK. Usually, on Friday we don't get much running [track time]. Our primary car didn't run that good, so we had to take the spare car out. It was a mixture of things, but the setup was good all day."
ALEX TAGLIANI, Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard: "First of all, it's a very challenging track, and you need a very good balanced car. It's very important to carry a lot of speed under braking. We're trying to get the best compromise we can to carry speed through the corners and be fast on the straightaways. It's a very challenging track. We're pretty pleased with the balance. You never know what's going to happen in the race and I don't want to do much predicting. But right now, we're fast, and we're going to continue working on the car so that we can hopefully start in the top five."
* Three of the top four practice speeds were posted by Ford drivers, topped by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), second at 171.136 mph (39.211 seconds). He was followed by Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), third at 171.005 (39.241) and Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), fourth at 170.865 mph (39.273). Ford will be seeking its second consecutive pole at Rio, following Fittipaldi's winning effort last year, the first pole of his FedEx Championship Series career.
* Brazil has nine drivers on the entry list for this weekend's Rio 200, and four were among Friday's top 10. They were fourth-place Fittipaldi, Helio Castro-Neves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), fifth at 170.553 mph (39.345); Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), seventh at 169.669 mph (39.550) and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), ninth at 169.429 mph (39.606). Brazil, the defending Nation's Cup champion, leads this year's Nation's Cup chase by a 36-34 count over Canada.