By Clayton Bradford - Motorsport.com After weeks of preparation and construction to put in place the temporary street circuit, the first opportunity for Champ cars to hit the track came under wet conditions. It's quickly becoming tradition for...
By Clayton Bradford - Motorsport.com
After weeks of preparation and construction to put in place the temporary street circuit, the first opportunity for Champ cars to hit the track came under wet conditions.
It's quickly becoming tradition for a rainy first session at the Surfers Paradise track, but luckily, the tradition is usually followed by a sunny day on the Sunday. Weather forecasts indicate fine weather for the rest of the weekend, but for the first session, drivers tried to get some early laps under wet conditions.
First at speed was Christian Fittipaldi in the spare car with a time of 1min 43.556 secs (97.165mph). Most cars on track opted for slicks on the drying track and spare cars to try and sort out set-ups. Jimmy Vasser followed with a 1min 43.558 sec ( 97.163 mph) on his second lap.
Vasser increased his speed to post a 1min 38.238sec (102.425mph) on his fourth lap and again on his 10th lap at 1min 36.911 sec (103.827mph) showing the dry line to everyone else.
Helio Castroneves held 2nd fastest time on 1min 36.997 (103.735mph) before heading to the pits.
First incident for the session was Patrick Carpentier overshooting turn 3 at ANA corner, staying off the wall and reversing out under his own power. The session continued with most teams turning laps early.
Scott Dixon brought out the first red flag after a spin after the 1st chicane. Dixon stayed off the wall but stalled the engine requiring a start from the safety team and a brief red flag to the session. Luckily for Dixon, the eight minute practice penalty had little effect on his preparation.
Oriol Servia showed determination to start the first session after arriving in Australia wearing a neck brace following the accident at Laguna Seca two weeks ago and logging a respectable 12th fastest time with 1min 41.311 (99.318 mph).
The drying track soon gave way to steady rain and most teams took the opportunity to pit and cover the cars. Cristiano Da Matta stayed on track pushing hard in the wet with plenty of oversteer and slides, followed by Casey Mears turning some early laps. This is Mears debut at the Surfers Paradise track and he will need as many laps as possible to get used to the 14 turn street circuit.
After Cristiano Da Matta overshot Turn 14 Honda Hairpin and stalled on track, the session was red flagged as the rain continued and most teams packed up for the morning.
The second practice session officially got under way at 1.45pm, but due to the unrelenting rain, full course yellows were shown.
After almost an hour, the green flag was shown. The only brave souls again were Dixon, Kanaan, Fittipaldi and Mears, however, with such a wet track they were all at least 15 seconds of the pace of the morning session.
The rest of the teams decided that discretion was the key word for the day and didn't risk the cars in the session, saving it for the forecasted fine day for Saturday.
During the media conference shortly afterwards, Vasser, Fernandez and Castro Neves all indicated that losing the day to rain would have little effect on their preparations and all were banking on a dry, but green, circuit for Saturday qualifying.
No one seemed prepared to commit themselves when questioned on the current engine manufacturer woes CART is having, despite the recent publicity.
Even though it rained for most of the day the crowd figures still reached over 53000 people through the gates.
Forecast for Saturday - Fine 24 Celsius.