CHAMPCAR/CART: Homestead Mercedes Friday report

Race: Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, Homestead, Fla. Date/Session: Friday, Mar. 19, 1999 Practice Mercedes-Benz Powers Four of Top 10 at Homestead Practice Player's/Forsythe Drivers Repeat Impressive Performances from ...

Race: Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, Homestead, Fla. Date/Session: Friday, Mar. 19, 1999 Practice

Mercedes-Benz Powers Four of Top 10 at Homestead Practice Player's/Forsythe Drivers Repeat Impressive Performances from Spring Training

Mercedes-powered Champ Cars turned in four of the top-10 times at practice today for the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, the season-opening event for the CART FedEx Championship Series. That the ten fastest drivers in the season's first day of official practice were all within three-tenths of a second confirms that 1999 will be another very competitive year for the Series.

Patrick Carpentier, the fastest driver at Spring Training, posted the third-fastest time of the day in his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes, with a lap of 25.537 seconds (211.74 mph). Carpentier finished just behind Adrian Fernandez (25.360 sec./213.218 mph) and Dario Franchitti (25.518 sec./211.897 mph).

Moore Quickest in Afternoon

Carpentier's teammate Greg Moore, the polesitter at this race last year, was quickest in the afternoon session and finished fifth overall (25.547 sec./211.657 mph).

PacWest teammates Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin were consistently quick in the morning and afternoon sessions. Blundell's Motorola Mercedes turned the 1.502-mile speedway in 25.601 seconds (211.210 mph), while "Big Mo's" Hollywood Mercedes turned a best lap of 25.619 seconds (211.062 mph).

Helio Castro-Neves' Hogan Racing crew made several adjustments to his Hogan Racing Mercedes race car throughout the day, and improved in the afternoon session to post a lap of 26.004 seconds (207.937 mph) for 20th position. Marlboro Team Penske veteran Al Unser Jr. finished 21st, with a time of 26.023 seconds (207.785 mph).

Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes Rookie Shigeaki Hattori hit the wall at turn four in the morning practice, and was taken to the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for treatment. He was attended to by Dr. Philip A. Villanueva, director of Head Injury Services, where he was found to have a mild concussion. He was listed in good condition.

Due to the concussion, however, Hattori will not be able to participate in race activities for the remainder of the weekend.

Drivers will qualify Saturday while the green flag on the Marlboro Grand Prix is Sunday, March 21, at 2:05 p.m. (EST) on ABC (tape delay, 4-6 p.m.).

Mercedes Quotes

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "Today was excellent. It was a problem-free day. Everything was fine. We did long runs this afternoon. We didn't go for quickest time. The NASCAR trucks are running here this weekend, and they are running on a compound that is not compatible with the compound we are running. We had to set up the car different than we usually do. We had to change the suspension and the wings."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "The big question here are the tires. The (NASCAR) trucks are putting down a lot of rubber and it is making our grip a lot less. It is the same for everybody. We'll just have to adjust.

"This year is our best chance for the championship. We worked really hard this winter, that bodes well for us. Everyone expects us to be fast on ovals. We have to get better on road courses. We ran on the same tires all morning. There was nothing we wanted to try, because we knew we had a good setup from Spring Training."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone "We had a little trouble in the afternoon session. We had some engine problems early on, and we ran a few laps to check things out. We decided to switch to the back-up car and only ran for the last 10 minutes of the session. The conditions were very different from this morning -- I think because the NASCAR trucks are laying down so much rubber. It's something that needs to be addressed, because it's not good to run like this. The track is very greasy."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone "We worked on the setup we'll have on race day and I am very happy with the car. We made some changes between the morning and the afternoon sessions because the car was loose coming out of turn four. But we fixed that. We have to re-learn the track because it is different with the trucks. The track is more slippery and it's having more effect than we thought. We were consistent today but we have more to come."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone "I was careful to try not to force the car today. We changed the tires and made some adjustments to the gear ratio and it was really good this afternoon. We got a better top speed and a better time in the afternoon, but we have a long way to go. We have to keep our focus and improve tomorrow."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear "We're doing all right. We need to get a little more out of it. We did a long run today, and Goodyear was right there for us, and we've got good reliability. Now that we've got the long runs out of the way it's time to go fast."

Practice, Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Homestead, Florida March 19, 1999 Pos. Driver Engine Time Speed 1 Adrian Fernandez Ford 25.360 213.218 2 Dario Franchitti Honda 25.518 211.897 3 Patrick Carpentier Mercedes 25.537 211.740 4 Juan Montoya Honda 25.540 211.715 5 Greg Moore Mercedes 25.547 211.657 6 Mark Blundell Mercedes 25.601 211.210 7 Mauricio Gugelmin Mercedes 25.619 211.062 8 Max Papis Ford 25.660 210.725 9 Michael Andretti Ford 25.685 210.520 10 Gil de Ferran Honda 25.724 210.201 20 Helio Castro-Neves Mercedes 26.004 207.937 21 Al Unser, Jr. Mercedes 26.023 207.785 28 Shigeaki Hattori Mercedes 26.383 204.950

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Al Unser Sr. , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske