HOUSTON, Tex. (October 5, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske topped the speed charts Friday during testing for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, Round 18 of the FedEx Championship ...
HOUSTON, Tex. (October 5, 2001) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske topped the speed charts Friday during testing for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, Round 18 of the FedEx Championship Series (2 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), the defending Houston polesitter who comes in off a victory in the most recent FedEx Championship Series event at Rockingham, England, averaged 89.791 miles per hour (1 minute, 1.222 seconds) on his fastest lap of the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit. His fastest time of the day came during the first of two testing sessions, held Friday morning. The afternoon session was hindered by rain.
De Ferran will be seeking his fourth pole of the season when qualifying begins 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday. A morning practice session, beginning 10:30 a.m. ET, will precede the qualifying session.
De Ferran comes to Houston ranked second in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 141 points, six behind championship leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal (147). Brack was seventh fastest Friday, at 89.127 miles per hour.
Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing was second fastest Friday at 89.522 mph (1:01.406). He seeks a season best start, topping seventh at Portland.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske posted Friday's third-fastest speed of 89.505 mph (1:01.418). Castroneves stands fourth in the championship with 123 points as he enters the weekend.
Rounding out Friday's top five drivers were defending event champion Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, fourth at 89.417 mph (1:01.478) and Bryan Herta (Forsythe-Indeck/Reynard Ford) of Forsythe Championship Racing, fifth at 89.390 mph (1:01.497).
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "We have a good car, and it was good from when we unloaded, so we're happy. This afternoon was a good, no pressure, rain practice session. I enjoyed the afternoon session because at some tracks - like Sebring - when you go to test and it rains, you can't run because there's too much standing water, and you usually don't get to run in the rain except for qualifying or the race, like what has happened to us twice this year. This was a good opportunity to go out and make changes in the rain. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Kmart Toyota Lola: "I had a pretty decent day today, but to be honest - and I'm trying to change this for the last few races - I've been having a pretty [bad] season. It's definitely good to be here. We're changing the car and getting it a lot better than it was in the last three street courses and more like it was in the early street courses. The car was good straight out. I was happy with the rain setup, and we made a few changes. On the last change, I ran out of talent and kissed the wall. I was going to park it, but I ended up parking it in a different way. It's not going to be easy tomorrow, because I'm in the slow [qualifying] group."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It's very difficult when you go out on a street circuit, because there's no rubber down. But it keeps getting better and better, and the car was good out of the truck. This is a very difficult track, because it's very bumpy in the braking area. Hopefully, we'll have good weather tomorrow. I'm enjoying the situation [of chasing the championship] a lot. I'm focusing on the car, but when I get out of the car, you go through the list to see where the other guys are. But I'm enjoying it a lot. It's been a good year, and it's still going, so we'll see what happens."
*Following Thursday's announcement that CART is adopting a 3.5-liter, normally aspirated, engine formula for competition in the years 2003-2005, CART Chairman/CEO Joseph Heitzler and CART Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, John Lopes, conducted a media conference Friday at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. "I think the best thing is that CART got to create an environment where it knows where it's going," said Heitzler. "This is an aggressive move in that direction. Let's focus on racing and use the rule book when we have to, but let's get back to racing. Yesterday was a major step in putting a lot of things behind us and moving forward. In no way do we want this new formula to create additional consternation for our engine manufacturers. But this decision was made for CART by CART. We don't have anything in writing from any engine manufacturer, but it's important that CART does what's best for its teams, its fans, and its sport. CART did not make this decision in a vacuum." Added Lopes: "It would be avoiding the obvious if we didn't say that commonality [with the engine formula utilized by the Indy Racing League] was agreed to yesterday. But we also want to maintain our high-tech focus. We will take the next 30-60 days to determine some of the more specific technical issues. There is a committee of individuals working through these issues. I don't have an answer as to whether they will be team-owned or leased powerplants, or some combination thereof, but it could be different than it is now. A lot of our teams rotate their equipment almost annually. Our engine manufacturers have a depth of talent and resources, so if this is something they will want to do, they can do it."
*Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) will be seeking his fourth pole of the season Saturday, joining previous pole-winning efforts at Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Germany.
*Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) is chasing his second career FedEx Championship Series pole position. His earlier pole came at Rio de Janeiro in his homeland of Brazil in 1999.
*Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) seeks his fourth pole of the season and his third on a temporary street circuit, joining Long Beach and Detroit. Castroneves drove to victory following each of his previous pole-winning efforts on street venues.
Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston will air 2:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.