CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes-Benz Friday Rio 200 report

Juan Montoya was the quickest driver on the first day of practice for the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first international event of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Montoya's best lap was...

Juan Montoya was the quickest driver on the first day of practice for the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first international event of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Montoya's best lap was 38.922 seconds (172.406 mph) on the 1.864-mile oval. Mauricio Gugelmin was the fastest Mercedes-Benz driver (14th overall) with a 39.736-second lap (168.875 mph) in the afternoon, despite a spin late that resulted in impact with the inside wall on the front straight. "It was a pretty good session," said Gugelmin, driver of the PacWest Racing Nextel Mercedes-Benz, who spun with only a few minutes remaining in the afternoon session. "I just got on the gas too soon coming out of turn four. I managed to avoid the outside wall, but I got the inside wall. It was just light damage, nothing major. I was hoping to use the last four minutes to learn more about the car. We'll just have to learn tomorrow morning." A major hurdle for all the teams today was finding balance on a race track that features slow, tight corners that are more similar to a road course than a true oval. Most teams chose to run a low-downforce setup to increase speeds on the straightaways, including Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan, with the Hollywood Mercedes-Benz. "It was a busy session with all the yellows," said Kanaan, who was 15th quick today with a lap of 39.745 seconds (168.836 mph). "We tried a low-downforce setup this afternoon, but I cut a tire early in the session so I had to use my new tires earlier than I wanted. We need to find more speed. We need more mechanical grip too, so we can run the low-downforce setup that we want to run. We've got some more bits to try tomorrow." Bettenhausen Motorsports driver Michel Jourdain Jr., driver of the Herdez Mercedes-Benz, was 20th in the field today, with a lap of 39.965 seconds (167.907 mph). He was also running a setup with minimal downforce. "We're getting better," said Jourdain. "We're making changes and improvements. We're running the lowest downforce possible, so we're working with different shock and spring setups to try and increase mechanical grip for the corners." Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate Mark Blundell, who drives the Motorola Mercedes-Benz, was 21st today with a 39.987-second lap (167.815 mph). "Unfortunately, we only ran short in the morning session because we had some issues we had to resolve," said Blundell. "In the afternoon, we ran with a good load of fuel on board. Now we'll try to conclude what our next direction is going to be. Tomorrow we'll run with less fuel and get some balance in the car to prepare for a good qualifying run in the afternoon." Arciero Project Racing's Hollywood Mercedes-Benz, driven by Luiz Garcia Jr., was 25th today with a lap of 42.706 seconds (157.130 mph). Practice resumes tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. local time (8:30 a.m. Eastern). Single-car qualifying will be held from 1 to 3:15 p.m. tomorrow (noon to 2:15 p.m. Eastern).

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn