CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca Test, Day One 99-02-23

Herta Tops Track Record At Laguna Seca Laguan Seca, CA (February 24, 1999) - Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta continued to ride his wave of success at Laguna Seca Raceway on Tuesday as he unofficially toppled the existing track record during the ...

Herta Tops Track Record At Laguna Seca

Laguan Seca, CA (February 24, 1999) - Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta continued to ride his wave of success at Laguna Seca Raceway on Tuesday as he unofficially toppled the existing track record during the opening day of the CART Open Test.

Herta, who set the track qualifying record in 1997 at 118.666 miles per hour (1:07.895 seconds), topped that mark twice in the Shell Ford Reynard during the six-hour test session that featured seven Champ Car drivers on the 2.238-mile permanent road course. He led the group in the morning session with a lap of 118.73 mph (1:07.853) and bettered that lap in the afternoon with one at 118.95 mph (1:07.728). The lap is considered an unofficial track record because it was accomplished during a test session and not a race weekend qualifying session.

"This is our first true road racing test of the year. I'm definitely glad we are here," said Herta, who notched his first FedEx Championship Series career triumph here last season. "The track wasn't as good this afternoon, but we were able to adjust to the conditions and the car got better as the day went on. Some of the other teams decided not to come at the last minute, but this test has been a big help for both myself and [Team Rahal teammate] Max [Papis]. Laguna is always a great track to run, even in a test."

Max Papis achieved his best lap of 117.98 mph (1:08.286) in the morning session.

Team Rahal also was bolstered by the results of Papis, who posted the second-quickest lap of the day in the Miller Lite Ford Reynard. Papis achieved his best lap of 117.98 mph (1:08.286) in the morning session, but also was strong in the afternoon with the third-fastest lap of that session at 117.59 (1:08.512).

"This car was better in the morning session. We got a little lost this afternoon by trying new pieces, but I can see a lot of potential with this car and this Miller Lite team," said Papis, who replaces the legendary Bobby Rahal who retired following the close of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series season. "Today was the first time this car had turned a wheel on the track. With this car, the straightaways seem shorter and you enter the corners much quicker. I'm learning to adjust to the car. It's going to be fast."

Rookie Juan Montoya, who replaces two-time series champion Alex Zanardi at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, was third quickest on the day with a lap of 117.75 mph (1:08.419) in a Target Honda Reynard. That lap was second fastest in the afternoon session, as Montoya grew more familiar with the layout.

"Things feel good. We're trying a lot of new things with the car and we're getting better," Montoya said. "The road course is what I'm used to [with his European racing background]. I like the variety of the turns. Each time we test, the car feels better and better."

Robby Gordon, who becomes a driver/owner this season with the formation of Team Gordon, utilized the CART Open Test for the initial shakedown of the Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift package. He came away pleased as he was fourth fastest with a top lap of 115.85 mph (1:09.544), which he recorded in the afternoon.

"To be honest with you, I'm really excited," said Gordon, who shares ownership of Team Gordon with John Menard and Mike Held. "It was great to come out here and run 100 miles trouble free. The Swift ran well and our Firestone tires ran good. We're really pleased with the package we picked for 1999."

Richie Hearn was fifth fastest with a top lap of 114.90 mph (1:10.120) in the Budweiser Toyota Swift despite battling an understeer problem throughout the test. He achieved the lap during the afternoon session.

"We ran average. We didn't set the world on fire, but we are still learning a lot about the car," Hearn said. "We got set up kind of late. This is the first real road course we have tested on and Spring Training [in Homestead, Fla.] was the first real run with the car so we are quite a ways behind everybody else. Every time we have tested so far we have run quite a bit faster the second day."

It was a disheartening session for Patrick Racing as teammates Adrian Fernandez and PJ Jones experienced problems that severely limited their track time. Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Swift) managed just 23 laps for the entire session due to mechanical problems. His quickest lap was 114.45 mph (1:10.393), sixth overall.

"We really didn't have a chance to see what we could do because of the problems," said Fernandez, a two-time winner in the FedEx Championship Series last season. "We did all of our laps on one set of tires. Hopefully, tomorrow will be much better so we can test the things we came here to test."

Jones (Visteon Patrick Racing Swift Ford) was limited to 23 laps during the session due to an engine problem. His quickest lap was 113.74 mph (1:10.834), seventh overall.

"The motors have been great up to now and this was the first one I had a problem with," Jones said. "It cost us some valuable time and it wasn't something we needed to happen to us. Tomorrow will be important to us to get in some time on the track."

Papis ran the most laps for the session with 68 and was followed by Herta (59), Montoya (49), Hearn (48) and Gordon (40). Herta paced the morning session with 37 laps and Papis the afternoon with 36.

The CART Open Test had three of the four engine manufacturers represented (Ford, Honda, Toyota) and two of the four chassis (Reynard, Swift). All of the cars in the test had Firestone tires.

The CART Open Test resumes Wednesday with another scheduled six-hour session. The final day of the two-day CART-sanctioned test will open with a morning session from 9 a.m. PT to noon PT and an afternoon session from 1:30 p.m. PT to 4:30 p.m. PT

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing