CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Mercedes Saturday Qualifying Report

Mercedes-Benz Powers Moore to Houston Pole IC108E Motivates Its Sixth Fast Qualifier of the Season Greg Moore scored the sixth pole of the year for Mercedes-Benz and Player's/Forsythe Racing, outpacing the rest of the FedEx Championship Series...

Mercedes-Benz Powers Moore to Houston Pole IC108E Motivates Its Sixth Fast Qualifier of the Season

Greg Moore scored the sixth pole of the year for Mercedes-Benz and Player's/Forsythe Racing, outpacing the rest of the FedEx Championship Series field on the 1.527-mile downtown Houston street circuit, site of tomorrow's inaugural Texaco Grand Prix of Houston.

Moore managed the feat with only about 12 minutes of on-track time. First, the session was interrupted when Alex Zanardi crashed heavily in the first corner (he was uninjured). Then, Moore had to park the Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes for the final eight minutes of the session to serve a penalty for causing a red flag during yesterday's provisional qualifying.

Despite the short run, Moore claimed his fourth pole of the season with a quick lap of 59.508 seconds (92.377 mph), .062 seconds quicker than second place qualifier Dario Franchitti.

Taking some direction from the setup of teammate Al Unser Jr., Marlboro Team Penske's Andre Ribeiro went from 19th in provisional qualifying to 10th in today's final session. Traffic, however, hindered Unser, and he will start 16th.

PacWest Racing's Mauricio Gugelmin and Team Alumax rookie Helio Castro-Neves will start 15th and 17th, respectively. Hogan Racing rookie JJ Lehto and Motorola Reynard/Mercedes driver Mark Blundell qualified 21st and 22nd, and Patrick Carpentier qualified the second Player's/Forsythe car 25th.

Tomorrow's 100-lap race will start at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ABC.

Mercedes Quotes

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Pole Winner - 59.508 sec.

"I'm really pleased. We're starting up front, and we're getting $10,000 in Marlboro money, but the most important thing is that we got that point for the pole. After Alex (Zanardi) crashed, we only had about six or seven minutes to go because we had to serve the eight-minute penalty for causing the red flag in provisional qualifying yesterday. So we just had to give it our best shot and really hang it out--if I touched the wall a little bit, that was okay. It's going to be a long, long day tomorrow, but hopefully being 23 and working out a lot will pay off. We'll just stay out of trouble and see how it goes."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 10th - 60.266 sec.

"We did a very intense program this morning with both cars going in different directions. It turned out Al's setup was better, so we took a look at it and went in that direction for this afternoon. The car was quite good for qualifying. It's important to be near the front here, not because the track is so narrow like other street circuits, but because if you are too far back, no matter how fast you go, you lose touch with the leaders."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 15th - 60.450 sec.

"We're better. We made a switch and the changes made quite a bit of improvement. We're still fighting for grip in the medium-speed corners.

We need more traction.  The tires are going to go off during long runs
tomorrow.  I feel a lot of people will struggle with rear tires no matter
what you do.  To get ahead tomorrow you will have to use up your rear
tires.  We will have a lot of yellow flags tomorrow for sure." 

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 16th - 60.554 sec.

"Today's qualifying session was not what we had hoped for. Every time I had a fast lap going, I encountered traffic, so I was unable to significantly improve my position on the starting grid. We should have a good setup on the Marlboro Penske Mercedes for the race tomorrow--Andre (Ribeiro) and I ran a very similar setup today, and he was able to qualify in the top 10."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear: 17th - 60.580 sec.

"I'm very frustrated. We were working so well this morning. I don't know what happened in qualifying. We can't lose focus, because we were doing a great job before. We've started so far back so much lately. It is definitely a shame."

JJ Lehto, No. 9 Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 21st - 60.904 sec.

"We have no grip.  We did a big change and nothing happened. 
We're missing on the basic setup.  A lot of things don't seem to be
working at the moment.  We basically need more grip." 

Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 22nd - 60.906 sec.

"We had a problem at the beginning of the session which cost us time in the pits. We did improve our car, though. We didn't improve quite good enough. We'll work on getting ready in the morning and see what we can do in the race."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 25th - 61.098 sec.

"The car was better this morning, but we made some changes, and they just didn't work. On my first set of tires, I kept running into traffic. We had to back up and back up and back up to get some space to run. Then on my second set, I didn't have any traffic. JJ (Lehto) let me go by, but then I ran out of fuel. It's very bad because it's so difficult to pass here. We'll just have to run around and hope we can make something happen in the pits. We're going to try everything because we have nothing to lose."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske