David Reininger - motorsport.com Long Beach, Calif. (April 14, 2000) - Adrian Fernanadez captured the provisional pole today in qualifying for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Fernandez, driver of the Quaker State/Tecate Ford-powered...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Long Beach, Calif. (April 14, 2000) - Adrian Fernanadez captured the provisional pole today in qualifying for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Fernandez, driver of the Quaker State/Tecate Ford-powered Reynard, stopped the clocks just seven one-thousands of a second faster than runner-up Gil de Ferran.
De Ferran is searching for his second pole position this season in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Reynard, having taking the first pole of the season at Homestead.
DeFerran was sixth fastest in the morning session, three-tenths of a second slower than Fernandez, who set the fastest time in the morning too. "Things have been going pretty well since the weekend started," said de Ferran. "We've been pretty happy with the car ever since I've arrived. Qualifying was basically just trying to get on with it, squeeze the best lap time possible out of the car. Obviously the team is really coming along quite well. It's our first road course of the year and we're right there at the front. So that's satisfying to see that the work we've done is paying off on road courses."
All of the CART FedEx drivers improved upon their morning times with Fernandez lapping 1.37 seconds faster in the afternoon qualifying session. "Like Gil this morning, my car has been working really well," said Fernandez. "Basically we've been trying to do very small changes on the car. The engine has been working really, really good. We're going to give a lot of surprises through the year with the Ford engine."
Fernandez thinks he left a little bit on the table today after slowing on his fastest lap. "My qualifying lap, I over drove a little bit too much. Then I slowed down and started driving a little bit more smooth. Unfortunately, in turn nine, I had a yellow flag and nobody was there, but there was a yellow flag. I slowed down a little bit. It cost me a little bit but it was enough to get the pole. At the end I tried to get a lap but my tires were not up to temperature. But I don't think anybody could have improved their time at that time. It's not over yet but I feel confident for the pole tomorrow."
Maz Papis drove his Miller Team Rahal Ford-powered Reynard to third place on the provisional grid. "I really enjoy the new layout of the track," exclaimed Papis. There are two more opportunities to pass. The track gives you more time to enjoy the circuit. Last year's circuit was too many twists and turns and little place to pass. Passing is going to be better in the race."
Most drivers agreed with Papis' assessment of the new portions of the circuit.
"The track is significantly different than it was last year," de Ferran said. "This year we had to learn three more corners, which really is adding to the circuit rather than changing the characteristics of the circuit. This has been a track that we've been fortunate enough to always run competitively, ever since I came here as a rookie in 1995."
"I think the track is definitely better than it's ever been," Fernandez said. "This new section gives you more opportunity for passing. It's more challenging. I'm very happy with the changes that have been done."
"I like the new parts of the track," said Christian Fittipaldi, who qualified 12th. "It's better because it's quicker. There are medium speed turns, which you didn't have before. Now there are more places to pass.
Rounding out the top five in today's provisional qualifying were Fernandez's teammate, Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser, driver of the Target Chip Ganassi Toyota-powered Lola.
"I'm pretty happy with the car," said Vasser. "On the last laps this afternoon our tire pressures went up quite a bit and I'm not sure what that was about, so I'm a bit disappointed with the session. The track was getting better as the session went on, with more rubber on the track so I'm sure speeds will go up in the last session. We'll just have to wait and see what shakes out."
Vasser's teammate and defending Long Beach champion, Juan Montoya qualified eighth fastest overall. "The car is not handling the way I want it to right now," said Montoya. We're working on getting the car tighter in the corners and then I think we'll be fine. I'm looking forward to getting out and racing, since Long Beach has been a great race for me."
Papis' teammate, Kenny Brack, struggled with technical problems in his first time on a road course since driving in a Formula 3000 race at Hockenheim in 1996. "We sat out a lot of the qualifying today," said Brack. "The engine stopped on the first lap and we finally had to go to the backup car. The fuel pressure release valve was broken and the engine would not run. We then had to change a few things on the backup car before going out on the track. We got out with only five minutes left in the session. I through the car around as best I could for three laps."
"It's a little frustrating because I really wanted to come to Long Beach with a strong effort."
Practice for the CART FedEx Series gets underway at 10:00 a.m. with the final qualifying session taking the green flag at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.