CHAMPCAR/CART: Homestead Mercedes & Tony Kanaan are tops

Mercedes-Benz driver Tony Kanaan pulled his backup race car out of the garage this afternoon and promptly set the fastest time of the day at Friday's practice session in preparation for Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, the ...

Mercedes-Benz driver Tony Kanaan pulled his backup race car out of the garage this afternoon and promptly set the fastest time of the day at Friday's practice session in preparation for Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, the season-opening event in the CART FedEx Championship Series. The sessions marked the official premiere of the new Mercedes-Benz IC108F V8 Champ Car engine.

Kanaan's primary car was heavily damaged halfway through the morning session when driver Alex Tagliani spun his car entering pit lane, sliding into Kanaan's parked car and injuring two crew members and a cameraman. The Mo Nunn Racing team quickly prepared Kanaan's backup Hollywood Mercedes Champ Car for the second session, and the Brazilian driver clocked his quick lap of 26.437 seconds (204.532 mph) on the 1.502-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval.

Mauricio Gugelmin, who ran in the top five early in the afternoon session, worked on race set ups later in the day and finished 10th with a hot lap of 26.805 seconds (201.724 mph) in his PacWest Nextel Mercedes. His teammate, Mark Blundell, was 16th after lapping the oval in 27.234 seconds (198.546 mph) in his Mercedes-powered mount.

Herdez/Bettenhausen Mercedes pilot Michel Jourdain Jr. lost track time in the morning due to a broken gearbox and minor engine problem that led to a precautionary equipment change. Jourdain Jr. subsequently posted a quick lap of 27.728 seconds (195.009 mph). Luiz Garcia Jr. and his new Arciero Project Racing Group team turned a lap in 28.838 seconds (187.503 mph).

The injured photographer reported pain in his left elbow and sustained a small and non-serious head contusion and a right ankle sprain. He was transported to Homestead Hospital for precautionary x-rays. Kanaan's mechanic reported lower back pain and was transported to Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables for x-rays. A crew member for Luiz Garcia Jr.'s Arciero Hollywood Mercedes car was treated and released from the CART Mobile Medical Facility after sustaining a laceration and bruise on his lower right leg. Mercedes Quotes

Tony Kanaan, No. 55, Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (First/26.437 seconds) "We went with new tires this afternoon since he (Tagliani) cut my tire and we didn't have another set. Morris (Nunn) said we may as well see what the car could do. Then we worked on the race set up for the rest of the day. "The Mercedes engine has been performing well and they are making good progress. We have been working as a team really well. Mercedes-Benz has been winning races for more than 100 years, so I'm not worried about them. I just want to give them good feedback so we can keep moving forward. "This team has put in a great deal of work. But we know we have a lot of work ahead of us. I'm happy to give this to my guys and to Mercedes today for all their hard work, but we also have to keep our feet on the ground. I know the other drivers will be quicker tomorrow, so we'll have to see what happens."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Nextel Mercedes/Firestone (10th/26.805 seconds) "We ran light and we also ran on full tanks today. I'm not entirely happy with the car. Some of this is the effect of the wind, but of course that is the same for everyone. We did get some good data today, and a very good idea of where we need to be. We're in the right ballpark."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (16th/27.234 seconds) "We tried a few changes this afternoon but they didn't work so we had to go back. We ran tires for long durations to get a feel for what's available when the tire life is at the end of its range. We didn't run on fresh tires because of the windy conditions. The wind makes it difficult to get consistency and know if you're really making positive changes. We've also got some understeer in turns one and two, so we'll have to try to fix that by tomorrow."

Michel Jourdain Jr., No. 16, Bettenhausen Herdez Mercedes/Firestone (22nd/27.728 seconds) "We lost a little bit of time in both sessions. We have a lot of data, and we will just keep working to improve the car."

Luiz Garcia Jr., No. 25, Arciero Project Racing Group Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (25th/28.838 seconds) "This team came together only in the last few weeks, so we have quite a bit of catching up to do. We didn't know if we'd be competitive because of the changes we had to make to the cars to meet the regulations for the 2000 season. We're losing downforce, so we're trying to get that back. Right now we're really quick on the straights, but we still don't have the car stuck to the track in the corners. We've got more information now, so we should be in better shape for qualifying tomorrow."

<pre> Practice, Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Homestead, Fla. March 24, 2000

Pos.    Driver                  Engine          Time    Speed   
1       Tony Kanaan             Mercedes-Benz   26.437  204.532 
2       Christian Fittipaldi    Ford Cosworth   26.538  203.753 
3       Patrick Carpentier      Ford-Cosworth   26.590  203.355 
4       Helio Castro-Neves      Honda           26.614  203.171 
5       Michael Andretti        Ford Cosworth   26.621  203.118 
6       Kenny Brack             Ford Cosworth   26.624  203.095 
7       Max Papis               Ford Cosworth   26.725  202.327 
8       Alexandre Tagliani      Ford Cosworth   26.743  202.191 
9       Juan Montoya            Toyota          26.768  202.002 
10      Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz   26.805  201.724 
16      Mark Blundell           Mercedes-Benz   27.234  198.546 
22      Michel Jourdain Jr.     Mercedes-Benz   27.728  195.009 
25      Luiz Garcia Jr.         Mercedes-Benz   28.838  187.503 

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr. , Mo Nunn