CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Saturday Qualifying Report

1999 Fedex CART Honda Indy, Surfers Paradise, Australia 16/10/1999 Clayton Bradford - motorsport.com DARIO CLAIMS POLE Dario FRANCHITTI issued a challenge to Championship leader Juan MONTOYA today after taking pole position for tomorrows...

1999 Fedex CART Honda Indy, Surfers Paradise, Australia 16/10/1999

Clayton Bradford - motorsport.com

DARIO CLAIMS POLE

Dario FRANCHITTI issued a challenge to Championship leader Juan MONTOYA today after taking pole position for tomorrows Honda Indy CART race. In the process, FRANCHITTI beat last years lap record of 1 min 32:288 seconds with a time of 1 min 31:703 secs after a late charge in final qualifying.

Dario was not happy with the early set up, however, some late work by Team KOOL Green engineer, Don HALLIDAY paid of for the scotsman and he blistered his way around the tight street circuit. FRANCHITTI took the best time over Team Rahal driver Bryan HERTA and third position with Scott PRUETT.

Saturday morning practice started on a wet track again, but the sun soon emerged and quickly dried the track. Unfortunately, overnight rain again washed the track clean leaving the teams to set out on wets for the practice session.

The session continued on the damp track for 40 minutes until Andrea MONTERMINI, in the TOYOTA, spun and stalled on turn 4, causing a red flag. He nudged the tyre wall but was restarted and returned to the pits with little damage.

The restart of the session saw the track almost totally dry. Paul TRACY wrecked his weekends good work with a serious hit on the wall in the second chicane, taking off the front left wheel and suspension and causing enough damage to put the car out of action for the rest of the day.

Tony KANAAN set quick times throughout the session until he hit kurbing at the first chicane, unbalancing the car and sliding into the tyre wall, making light contact. KANAAN's brush with the tyre wall brought out the chequered flag with Max PAPIS taking the best time for the session with a 1 min 34:362.

Qualifying got underway on time with the sun shining and the track dry and heating up. Bryan HERTA led the way with 90% of the field on stickered tyres. Paul TRACY sat in the pits in his spare car whilst the crew worked on the damage from the morning practice session. TRACY was not expected to take to the track in the session and was hoping his Friday Qualifying time would keep him above sixth position on the grid.

Chip GANASSI was confident early in the session saying, "Don't worry......just watch us this afternoon.!"

FRANCITTI took his time to feel out the track with moderate times in the 1 min 34 sec bracket. Despite handling problems, Michael ANDRETTI came out fighting but made two small errors, locking his brakes in both Bartercard corner and the hairpin. The car slid its way around the track, taking all of Michaels' concentration to keep it off the wall. He finally posted a time of 1 min 32:899 secs, bettering his time of Friday by .236 secs.

MONTOYA could only set the eighth fastest time halfway through the session, bouncing off ripple strips throughout the track. MONTOYA complained to team boss Chip GANASSI over the radio that the car was bouncing off the kerbs. GANASSI replied, "then stay off the kerbs."

Bryan HERTA set out for his flying laps, powersliding out of Fosters Chicane and Honda hairpin, showing that even though his drive for next year is not clear, he still has the speed to justify a seat.

Gil DE FERRAN cut the kerbs a little too tight at Foster's chicane, dragging debris onto the track, causing a short Red flag for the session.

TRACY remained in pole position with only 15 minutes left in the session, biding his time in the pits. Tony KANAAN was back out in his repaired car, setting the seventh fastest time of 1 min 33:233 secs.

With seven minutes left in the session, HERTA set the fastest time of the session with 1 min 32:595 sec, but could not improve after taking a piece of his right front wing off at Fosters Chicane. ( The CART guys just wouldn't give it to me).

Shortly after, FRANCHITTI launched his assault recording a Pole winning time of 1min 31:703 secs on a new set of tyres.

Scott PRUETT showed that the Toyota had improved significantly, taking the best qualifying position ever for the Engine manufacturer with a third position time of 1 min 32:616 sec.

In a last ditch effort to take pole, MONTOYA crossed the start finish line with less than a minute remaining in the session. He mounted the ripple strip high enough in the first chicane to take some grass and continued on a faultless lap until Conrad Jupiters corner where a lengthy brake lock-up destroyed his chances of Pole. He was left with a time of1 min 33:018 secs.

Christian FITTIPALDI ended his session badly with a spin in the first chicane after his back brakes locked up on entry to the corner. FITTIPALDI could only manage twelfth in the session with a time of 1 min 33.577 sec.

Dario FRANCHITTI was obviously happy after the session, gaining the extra point, to leave him only twelve points shy of MONTOYA, with just two races remaining. He agreed with Paul TRACYs' comments from yesterday, in that, you have to be very aggressive with this track to be rewarded with a good time. Dario complained that the track was very bumpy in the 3rd corner after resurfacing, but the rest of the track was OK, but there was a very fine line between hero and zero at this track.

Dario was extremely happy that MONTOYA was languishing in 6th position, giving him more opportunity to take the maximum points in the championship. After much work during the night with his engineer, Dario believed his race set-up was going to be better than his qualifying.

Bryan HERTA indicated that although he set a good time, tyre choice was an early problem for his team. He was confident that the race package would be very reliable, with the tyre problem fixed and good fuel efficiency. He stated that Sunday Warm-up would be a good time for Team Rahal to finalise some set-up choices and that he would like a run of about 5 or 6 laps to get things right for the race. Although he tried hard in the session, HERTA did look a bit surprised to be in such a good position for the race.

Scott PRUETT was extremely happy for Toyota to be in its best qualifying position ever, but was a bit sad about this being his last street circuit race in Cart. He complimented the race saying, "You couldn't end it at a better place, I love the Gold Coast."

Showing his inexperience on street circuits, MONTOYA will have to stay focused to keep off the walls in the race. FRANCHITTI has proven for the second year in a row that he has the speed, and with last years second place, will definitely be a threat to MONTOYAs' championship hopes for 1999.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian F