CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Mercedes-Benz Qualifying Report

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.

Mercedes Quotes

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  

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn