CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Mercedes-Benz Sports Final Qualifying Notes

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas Date/Session: Sept 25, 1999 Final Qualifying Moore Leads Mercedes at Houston's Final Qualifying Player's/Forsythe driver and defending ...

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas Date/Session: Sept 25, 1999 Final Qualifying

Moore Leads Mercedes at Houston's Final Qualifying

Player's/Forsythe driver and defending pole-sitter Greg Moore led a contingent of six Mercedes-Benz-powered Champ Car drivers during final qualifying today for Sunday's CART Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. Rookie Juan Montoya took his seventh pole position of the season, tying Nigel Mansell's 1993 rookie record. Montoya's time of 58.699 seconds (93.651 mph) established a new qualifying track record and bested Moore's 1998 time over the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit.

Throughout sessions Friday and Saturday, most teams sought to maximize grip on the slippery concrete-and-asphalt surfaces and tight corners of the downtown Houston circuit. And while several Mercedes drivers turned quick laps in the early portions of practice this morning, the afternoon final qualifying periods proved difficult. Moore posted a fast lap of 59.967 seconds (91.670 mph) in the drizzle of the first session and will start on the sixth row. Teammate Patrick Carpentier, who was fourth after Friday's provisional qualifying, encountered traffic in the second session and will start in 13th position with a qualifying lap in 59.978 seconds (91.654 mph).

PacWest Motorola Mercedes pilot Mark Blundell took the 17th slot on the grid when he lapped the circuit in 60.274 seconds (91.204 mph). Sophomore CART driver Helio Castro-Neves drove his Hogan Mercedes Lola to the top of the time sheets early in the morning practice session, but was hampered by traffic in the afternoon and eventually qualified on the 10th row for Sunday's race (60.430 seconds/90.968 mph).

The PacWest Hollywood Mercedes team continued to struggle with the balance on Mauricio Gugelmin's Champ Car. The Brazilian driver turned his quick lap in 61.063 seconds (90.025 mph) for 23rd position on the grid. Al Unser Jr. was a victim of the drizzle in the first qualifying session -- sliding into the wall on Turn Six and damaging his Marlboro Mercedes Penske. Unser Jr. will start 25th (61.787 seconds/88.970 mph).

Mercedes Quotes

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (12th/59.967 seconds) "Yesterday, we stayed with the set up which won us the pole last year. But Firestone must have changed their tires quite a bit because that set up wasn't working. We had to go back to what we knew worked on street courses this year. "I thought it was really going to pour during our session, but the drizzle really wasn't a big factor for us. The team did a great job with the car."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (13th/59.978 seconds) "We had a good lap going at the end, but some traffic squeezed me in Turn Seven and I lost at least three-tenths of a second because of it. I'm quite disappointed. The team did a good job and gave me a well-balanced car. We don't need to make many changes for tomorrow -- we just need to be patient and be there at the end."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (17th/60.274 seconds) "We're still trying to find our way around here. We have improved the car overnight. In qualifying, we went straight out, made a couple of changes and kept improving our lap time. I had hoped the time would be good enough to keep us in the top 10, but we're still in a position to do something strategic tomorrow."

Helio Castro-Neves No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (19th/60.430 seconds) "This session was all about finding a good clean line and that was hard to do out there, especially when you had a lot of laps on the tires. We did improve, but not nearly what we'd expected or wanted. I was sliding a lot out there, and that cost me time all the way around the circuit. The car was really tough to hold. Our car was capable of being the front two rows but between being held up in traffic and some bad timing of red flags that didn't happen."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (23rd/61.063 seconds) "It definitely has been a rough weekend so far. Like all street circuits, the Houston track forces you to make compromises in terms of the balance, and we're still searching for the set up. I was actually six-tenths quicker on my last lap, but the rear brakes locked up going into Turn Seven."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (25th/61.787 seconds) "We had a good lap going when it started to drizzle on the west side of the track. As I went through the second left-hander coming off the back straight (Turn Six), the car skated square into the wall. I needed an extra two feet to make the corner. The team is fixing the damage to the car so we can run it in the race. We've been making gains with the car this weekend and hope for a good run tomorrow."

Final Qualifying, Texaco Grand Prix of Houston Houston, Texas Sept. 25, 1999

Pos. Driver Engine Time Speed 1 Juan Montoya Honda 58.699 93.651 2 Bryan Herta Ford Cosworth 59.086 93.037 3 Paul Tracy Honda 59.106 93.006 4 Dario Franchitti Honda 59.179 92.891 5 Max Papis Ford Cosworth 59.192 92.871 6 Gil de Ferran Honda 59.411 92.528 7 Naoki Hattori Honda 59.569 92.283 8 Tony Kanaan Honda 59.649 92.159 9 Jan Magnussen Ford Cosworth 59.727 92.039 10 Adrian Fernandez Ford Cosworth 59.789 91.943 12 Greg Moore Mercedes-Benz 59.967 91.670 13 Patrick CarpentierMercedes-Benz 59.978 91.654 17 Mark Blundell Mercedes-Benz 60.274 91.204 19 Helio Castro-NevesMercedes-Benz 60.430 90.968 23 Mauricio Gugelmin Mercedes-Benz 61.063 90.025 26 Al Unser Jr. Mercedes-Benz 61.787 88.970

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Naoki Hattori , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske