By Paul Winalski - Motorsport.com A broken fuel pump prevented Bryan Herta from participating in the Friday qualifying session, but he was back with a vengeance in Saturday morning practice. He improved by 2.3 seconds to set a 1:08.748 that ...
By Paul Winalski - Motorsport.com
A broken fuel pump prevented Bryan Herta from participating in the Friday qualifying session, but he was back with a vengeance in Saturday morning practice. He improved by 2.3 seconds to set a 1:08.748 that was quickest of the session by 0.007 over Helio Castroneves. Tony Kanaan was third quickest a further .241 seconds back. Saturday morning lap times were all in the 1:08 to 1:10 range with 2.2 seconds separating the field, as compared with a range of 1:09 to 1:16 on Friday morning. Bad luck was had by Juan Montoya, whose car dropped a half-shaft in turn 9, and by Mauricio Gugelmin, who ran over it, scattering pieces over the track and bringing out the red flag.
Herta continued to make up for lost time in qualifying. Because he had posted no time in Friday qualifying he was in the first "slow" group of qualifiers. He soon set a series of fast laps that proved he really didn't belong in that group, culminating in a 1:08.281 that placed him fourth on the provisional grid. Any further progress was hindered by red flags brought out by Patrick Carpantier (spun off in turn 2) and Mark Blundell (stalled at turn 3). All of the other group 1 qualifiers improved their times over Friday but there were no major jumps in grid position.
The second "fast" group ran at the scheduled time on Saturday and thus on a hotter track than in Friday's delayed session. Only three drivers (Kenny Brack, Mauricio Gugelmin, Tony Kanaan) improved on their Friday times. Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, and Dario Franchitti retained positions 1-2-3 on the grid by virtue of their Friday times. Franchitti spoiled a promising flying lap when he overcooked it going into turn 11. Although he gathered it back up and got back on course, any chance of improving on his Friday time was ruined.
Montoya was pushed down to 5th by Herta. Kenny Brack ran a 1:08.544 flyer that took him from 13th to 6th but that was the end of his improvement as he stalled between turns 6 and 7, bringing out the red flag. After a tow to the top of the Corkscrew he coasted downhill to the paddock back entrance (out of fuel, perhaps?). Gugelmin improved a bit over Friday but only enough to retain the 7th spot, and Kanaan did the same to retain 12th. The remaining group 2 drivers consequently were pushed down a few spots.