After leading the race and finishing first among the Mercedes-Benz drivers in Vancouver, Al Unser Jr. picked up where he left off last week, qualifying his Marlboro Penske/Mercedes on the second row of the provisional starting grid for...
After leading the race and finishing first among the Mercedes-Benz drivers in Vancouver, Al Unser Jr. picked up where he left off last week, qualifying his Marlboro Penske/Mercedes on the second row of the provisional starting grid for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey. Three other Mercedes-Benz drivers joined Unser among the top 10 in today's first round of qualifying as Dario Franchitti claimed the provisional pole.
Player's/Forsythe Racing driver Greg Moore shares the second row with Unser going into final qualifying, which is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes pilot Mauricio Gugelmin is fifth, and Hogan Racing rookie JJ Lehto, who posted his best CART finish to date last weekend, qualified seventh.
Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate Mark Blundell, the runner-up in last year's race here, qualified 13th despite some problems during the session. Both Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes) and rookie Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Reynard/Mercedes) struggled with understeer and were 18th and 19th, respectively.
Marlboro Team Penske's Andre Ribeiro had mechanical problems and ended the session 24th.
Morning practice and final qualifying are scheduled for tomorrow. Sunday's 83-lap, 185.754-mile race will start at 12 p.m. local time and will be televised live on ESPN.
Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Third - 68.579 sec.
"The Mercedes engine has gotten even more powerful over the last couple of races. We're really getting a lot of power and reliability out of our little engine. The guys who make our engines deserve a lot of credit. We're constantly working on getting better. It showed today."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Fourth - 68.672 sec.
"We definitely improved the car. I just didn't get a clear lap on my second set of tires. You need the first two laps just to get the tires up to temperature. Then after that, I ran into to traffic. I don't think we could have gotten into the (one minute) sevens, but we could've had the overnight pole position. We have something to work with tomorrow. The place is still slippery compared with when we tested here, but we had a really good test. I'm very confident coming into this weekend. I think we can do really well."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Fifth - 68.685 sec.
"We've been making progress for the past few races -- really from Mid-Ohio on. Today we had no major dramas. The car still has some push in it. The biggest thing is we improved on our performance this morning. We have some more up our sleeve as well, so we'll get better. We changed springs during qualifying, but we went the wrong way. We had to change back again, and that hurt us a little bit."
JJ Lehto, No. 9 Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Seventh - 68.735 sec.
"A good session. We're getting used to it slowly but surely. We tested here two weeks ago and found some things. But this morning we had a big problem. The car just wasn't working. We went back to basics and got going again. It was still hard work to get this time, but we're happy with the improvements. Hopefully, we'll be able to make it better for tomorrow."
Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 13th - 68.972 sec.
"We recovered quite well today. We had some mechanical problems during the session that slowed us down. Still, we were able to go with new tires and earn our time on the last lap. Today, we were under pressure because of the problems we were having. Hopefully, tomorrow things will be easier than they were today, and we can move up."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 18th - 69.167 sec.
"Today was a good start for us. We had no problems other than the car was pushing a little bit. We're losing about a tenth (of a second) on some corners. If you lose that on eight corners then you've lost eight-tenths, and that is quite a lot."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear: 19th - 69.194 sec.
"We had a problem with understeer all day. We made a lot of changes and picked up a second and a half over this morning, so I'm happy about that. I got caught in traffic once; I just caught Tony (Kanaan) at the wrong moment, but I'm sure there's more in the car. All in all, we're very happy."