The Champ Cars made their long-awaited debut today at Rockingham Motor Speedway. Ongoing difficulties with "weepers" in the track surface caused additional delays today to the revised schedule following two days of cancellations. The CART teams...
The Champ Cars made their long-awaited debut today at Rockingham Motor Speedway. Ongoing difficulties with "weepers" in the track surface caused additional delays today to the revised schedule following two days of cancellations.
The CART teams and drivers performed a 10-minute evaluation period at 11:15am, followed by a 90-minute practice session at 12:15pm. This marked the first time the Champ Cars had taken to the circuit in anger since their arrival on Tuesday. Following a two-hour break to allow teams to change engines, the drivers took to the track again at 3:45pm for an 8-minute installation check.
The race was then on to re-fuel the cars and perform all of the pre-race festivities as quickly as possible so that the event could get underway. CART announced prior to the start of the race that the distance had been shortened from 210 laps to 168 but then during the event, due to failing light, an additional 28 laps were cut from the total.
An estimated 38,000 fans braved the cool conditions and waited out the delays to see Gil de Ferran, Kenny Brack and Helio Castroneves take the podium positions. Herdez Bettenhausen driver Michel Jourdain, Jr. pitted under an early yellow to top off his fuel and was running laps in the mid- to high- 26-second range. On lap 50, the #16 car spun coming out of Turn 4 but suffered only the loss of the shock cover and three positions on track. Following a lengthy stop to replace the cover (and the telemetry antennas attached to it), take on new tires and fuel, Jourdain rejoined the race two laps down on the leaders. Jourdain and the team soldiered home and completed the event in 19th position.
Michel Jourdain, Jr.
"It's a shame we had to start on championship points today because of the limited track time because I think that if we had had time on the track we could have qualified much better than 21st. The car was good right out of the box and I think if we had more time to work on a couple of little changes we could have been very competitive.
"On that first run the car got quite loose as the fuel load went down. It just kept getting looser and looser and then I just lost it coming out of four and couldn't catch it."
What's on tap
The CART FedEx Championship Series family returns this week to the United States where, following a one-week break to turn the cars around from oval set up, they will reconvene in Texas for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, October 5-7, 2001.