CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Friday Practice and Qualifying Report

1999 CART FedEx Honda Indy 300, Surfers Paradise, Australia Friday Qualifying & Practice (15/10/1999) Clayton BRADFORD - Paul TRACY joined the fight with a top time beating both Juan MONTOYA and Michael ANDRETTI for the honour...

1999 CART FedEx Honda Indy 300, Surfers Paradise, Australia Friday Qualifying & Practice (15/10/1999) Clayton BRADFORD -

Paul TRACY joined the fight with a top time beating both Juan MONTOYA and Michael ANDRETTI for the honour of the first fastest lap of the Indy Weekend. TRACY posted a 1min 32:700 secs to take the first dry qualifying session.

Earlier in the day the first practice session for CART got under way with the field slowed considerably by rain. There was heavy rain during all of Thursday, with the support qualifying running under the deluge. The downside was that the track was washed clean for the first practice, with virtually no rubber laid down for the Cart drivers.

Paul Tracy stalled on turn three causing a false start to the practice, but was soon under way with help from the officials. Due to TRACY's stall, no other car posted a time and the session was allowed to restart.

The rain showed the slow pace with favourite, Juan MONTOYA posting a best time of 1min 36:379 sec, almost four seconds off last years qualifying time of 1min 32:288 sec. The fastest time for the session was Christian FITTIPALDI with a 1:34:861 sec set in the late stages of the session on a drying track.

The closest FRANCHITTI could get was a 1min 40:230 sec, and after that lap he lightly brushed a wall at turn 10 with no apparent damage.

The qualifying session started on a dry track with temperatures increasing after the rain had cleared. Juan MONTOYA indicated that he was learning the track very quickly and was just picking out his braking points. His comments were not far from the mark when he posted the third quickest time for the session with a 1min 33:479 secs on his last lap out. MONTOYA indicated after the session that after he had done 5 laps on the drying track in practice, the team concentrated on finding a set-up for him. MONTOYA was not all smiles after the session saying that he had made too many mistakes on the track.

Michael ANDRETTI came out fighting early in the session posting a 1min 33:135 sec which he did not better for the rest of the session. After the, ANDRETTI stated that he had lost about half a second on the last corner and he believed that his car, although very good, was far from perfect. Michael predicted the Pole to be around 1min 31 seconds as the track improved.

Paul TRACY's fastest lap came at a price of two front wings after two mistakes at the same chicane. TRACY was on his first set of tyres in the qualifying session and approached the Fosters Chicane, braked late and straight-lined over a kerb, getting airborne in a spectacular rally style jump. The front right wing end plate came away and a pit stop followed. When asked what happened TRACY said," This is the type of place that really rewards you for being aggressive and driving hard....... I did the fast lap and on the next one I tried for a little more and didn't get through the chicane."

When asked about what his role was this weekend in relation to team orders, TRACY said, "I'm going to do the best job for my sponsors, the team, my side of the team. If Dario is challenging, I will help him, but I want to beat Michael (ANDRETTI) and take third. Dario has his responsibilities too."

Bryan HERTA continued his good form with fourth quickest time of 1min 33:479 followed by last years pole sitters Dario FRANCITTI. FRANCITTI posted a time of 1min 33:851 secs early in the session and despite his teammates' good times, could not improve.

Gil De FERRAN, the first of the Goodyear runners, took the next position with a 1min 33:937 sec, followed by Tony KANAAN 1min 33:966. Mauricio GUGELMIN, Patrick CARPENTIER and Jimmy VASSER made late charges in the Group 2 qualifying to bump both Christian FITTIPALDI and Max PAPIS from the top ten. GUGELMIN posted 1min 34:109 in the first Mercedes in the field followed by Patrick CARPENTIER 1 min 34:152 secs. Previous Australian winner Jimmy VASSER took tenth position with a 1 min 34:245 secs to round out the top ten.

Greg MOORE languished in 22nd spot and could only post a 1min 35:613. Greg indicated that the Mercedes may struggle in slow turns, but after Houston they learnt a bit more during the race which may help them this weekend.

With fine weather expected for the remainder of the weekend and an improving track, tomorrows qualifying session should see times drop. Certainly, MONTOYA has proved yet again that although he may not know the track, he is going to be hard to beat.

Practice and qualifying continue on Saturday.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Christian F