(Rio, Brazil) â€“ PacWest driver Mauricio Gugelmin took a peak over the thin line between being fast and a major damage bill today when the rear end of his car â€œbroke awayâ€ in the dying minutes of practice for Sundayâ€™s Rio 200 at the...
(Rio, Brazil) – PacWest driver Mauricio Gugelmin took a peak over the thin line between being fast and a major damage bill today when the rear end of his car “broke away” in the dying minutes of practice for Sunday’s Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio, Brazil.
Gugelmin, desperate for a big result in front of his home fans this weekend, produced a big “save” in the afternoon practice session to keep his #17 Nextel PacWest Mercedes-Benz in one piece. The Brazilian native accelerated too early coming out of turn four and was pushed down the track before brushing the inside concrete – the incident bringing out a yellow and ending the session a few minutes early.
Gugelmin was the fastest of the five Mercedes-Benz runners with a time of 39.736 seconds around the 1.864-mile (2.99km) oval, but he will have to find something special in official qualifying tomorrow to match his pole-winning effort at the circuit in 1997.
Although he finished the day in 21st position overall, #18 Motorola PacWest Mercedes-Benz driver Mark Blundell was less than 0.75 of a second from being inside the top three.
Defending series champion Juan Montoya recorded the quickest time of the day with a 38.922-second lap and was followed by Kenny Brack (39.211s) and Alexandre Tagliani (39.241s).
MAURICIO GUGELMIN - # 17 NEXTEL PACWEST MERCEDES-BENZ
Morning Session: 40.156s – 14th; Afternoon: 39.736s – 14th; Combined: 14th
“The session was pretty good in the afternoon and I am pretty happy with the car apart from the last run,” said Gugelmin. “I stepped on the gas a little too soon coming out of turn four and I lost the rear end. “I tried to avoid the outside wall, but I ended up coming down and making minor contact with the inside wall which brought out the last yellow. We had made some changes for that run and I was hoping to use the four minutes remaining to learn more about the car. “I guess now we will have to wait until tomorrow. I am quietly confident we can qualify much higher up the list than 14th.”
MARK BLUNDELL - # 18 MOTOROLA PACWEST MERCEDES-BENZ
Morning Session: 39.998s – 13th; Afternoon: 39.987s – 21st – Combined: 21st “Considering we ran most of the afternoon session with heavy fuel loads and pretty worn tires we are happy with that time,” said Bundell. “We only had 25 minutes of interrupted running in the morning session after a fuel pick-up problem. We played with the set-up a lot during the session and believe we can improve the balance of the car for qualifying with a few changes. “I think we are looking OK for qualifying when we can run a flying lap without any traffic.”