Cristiano da Matta led all Lola drivers in practice for the 4th annual Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, as the CART FedEx Championship Series decamped at the Honda-owned 1.549-mile oval track about two hours north of...
Cristiano da Matta led all Lola drivers in practice for the 4th annual Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, as the CART FedEx Championship Series decamped at the Honda-owned 1.549-mile oval track about two hours north of Tokyo.
Da Matta, driving the #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Lola/Toyota, took third place in timed practice, despite a gearbox problem during the morning session and changing conditions in the afternoon. Turning a lap of 26.255 seconds (212.257mph) in the morning, da Matta struggled to find balance in the afternoon. "The track felt different this afternoon. We would make some changes and I wasn't sure if the changes made the car feel different, or if it was the wind. It wasn't an easy day for us." Two Reynard/Honda drivers led the all-Brazilian top four, as Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves were quickest for the day.
Bruno Junqueira's quick time of 26.269 seconds (212.144mph), fourth overall, was set in the afternoon, and the #4 Team Target Lola/Toyota rookie, who garnered pole position at Nazareth less than two weeks ago admitted, "The morning did not start out very good. We had some problems then, but the afternoon session went very well. I had some of my best laps this afternoon, some very solid runs." Junqueira ran 47 laps in the afternoon session, after clocking 28 laps of the 1.549-mile oval in the morning.
Christian Fittipaldi, too, had a tough day, yet brought the #11 Kmart Blue Light Special Lola/Toyota to eighth best speed, despite a fuel pressure problem in his primary car that limited his afternoon run to 26 laps in his spare car, the quicker of the two. "I'm reasonably happy with the car, and we are much better than the time sheets show. We lost some valuable time when he had to switch to the backup."
Fittipaldi echoed the bulk of the 25-car field when he said, "I think it will be unbelievably close in qualifying tomorrow." There will be a split practice session in the morning, while single-car qualifying takes place Friday afternoon. Weather conditions are expected to parallel today's clear, cool skies, with air temperatures hovering around the mid-70s when time trials commence and track temps in the 105-108 degree range.