Qualifying is No Day at the Beach for Mercedes-Benz Teams Gil de Ferran earned his second pole position of the CART FedEx Championship Series season Saturday during final qualifying for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. De Ferran's hot lap...
Qualifying is No Day at the Beach for Mercedes-Benz Teams
Gil de Ferran earned his second pole position of the CART FedEx Championship Series season Saturday during final qualifying for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. De Ferran's hot lap of 67.494 mph (104.969 mph) bested the field of 25 Champ Car competitors on the 1.968-mile newly configured temporary street circuit.
It was a day of frustration for Mercedes-Benz teams, as competitive speed demonstrated during Friday's practice sessions could not be translated into favorable starting positions today. The top Mercedes driver was Tony Kanaan, who will start on the eighth row with his Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood Mercedes (68.679 seconds/103.158 mph) * down from 10th position on Friday's provisional grid.
Meanwhile, PacWest Racing Mercedes drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell struggled with ill-handling race cars all day. Gugelmin, piloting the Nextel Mercedes, improved his starting position by one place over yesterday's provisional qualifying and will start alongside Kanaan in 16th place (68.821 seconds/102.945 mph). Mark Blundell, who was second quickest during Friday's morning practice session, had several off-course excursions today -- fortunately without damage to his race car. Blundell's qualifying lap of 69.218 seconds (102.355 mph) places the Motorola Mercedes on the 10th row for Sunday's 82-lap event.
The Bettenhausen Herdez team and pilot Michel Jourdain Jr. turned in a qualifying lap of 69.861 seconds (101.413 mph) and will start in 22nd position. Luiz Garcia Jr. qualified 25th with a lap in 73.076 seconds (96.951 mph) in his Arciero Project Racing Group/Hollywood Mercedes.
Tony Kanaan, No. 55, Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (15th/68.679 seconds)
"As you might expect, I'm very disappointed with our qualifying results, but I honestly feel like we have a good car for the race tomorrow. The fact that we've had all of three days of road-course testing really showed. We all have high expectations because we've all been successful elsewhere, but you can't get around the fact that this team is only four months old. I caught a lot of traffic during the qualifying session. It really held me back. We're starting farther back than we'd like tomorrow, but it's a long race. I definitely know my way around this track. So the game plan will be to remain calm, and gradually move our way to the front like we did at Homestead. I have every faith in the world that we can do that."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Nextel Mercedes/Firestone (16th/68.821 seconds)
"We improved the car from this morning's session; we have a lot better balance and a lot less push. The qualifying session was trouble free. We got into a little bit of traffic and on my last attempt for a quick lap, I could not take as much as I wanted out of it. We are going to try and improve a little bit more before the start of the race, and try to make sure we have a good clean race."
Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (20th/69.218 seconds)
"We are having severe problems trying to keep the rear of the car under control. Every time I brake, the rear of the car lifts off the ground and spits me off the track. I have spent more time off the track than on it, and fortunately have not damaged anything. We have fought our way through the pack before, but we will certainly need to make some improvements overnight if we are to pull off anything tomorrow. We need to go hard from the green flag and allow the Mercedes-Benz reliability to get us to the checkered flag * hopefully well among the points."
<pre> Final Qualifying, Grand Prix of Long Beach Long Beach, Calif. April 15, 2000
Pos. Driver Engine Time Speed 1 Gil de Ferran Honda 67.494 104.969 2 Jimmy Vasser Toyota 67.703 104.645 3 Juan Montoya Toyota 67.984 104.213 4 Adrian Fernandez Ford Cosworth 68.007 104.178 5 Bryan Herta Honda 68.012 104.170 6 Max Papis Ford Cosworth 68.086 104.057 7 Kenny Brack Ford Cosworth 68.291 103.744 8 Roberto Moreno Ford Cosworth 68.317 103.705 9 Helio Castro-Neves Honda 68.416 103.555 10 Memo Gidley Ford Cosworth 68.523 103.393 15 Tony Kanaan Mercedes-Benz 68.679 103.158 16 Mauricio Gugelmin Mercedes-Benz 68.821 102.945 20 Mark Blundell Mercedes-Benz 69.218 102.355 22 Michel Jourdain Jr. Mercedes-Benz 69.861 101.413 25 Luiz Garcia Jr. Mercedes-Benz 73.076 96.951