CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Cleveland Final Qualifying

Blundell to Lead Mercedes-Benz in Cleveland Grand Prix Unser Moves Marlboro Team Penske Into Top 10 Mark Blundell’s Motorola Reynard/Mercedes-Benz is the first of three Mercedes-powered Champ Cars qualified among the top 10 for ...

Blundell to Lead Mercedes-Benz in Cleveland Grand Prix Unser Moves Marlboro Team Penske Into Top 10

Mark Blundell’s Motorola Reynard/Mercedes-Benz is the first of three Mercedes-powered Champ Cars qualified among the top 10 for tomorrow’s Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland. Joining Blundell are PacWest Racing teammate Mauricio Gugelmin, who will start the Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes eighth, and Al Unser Jr., who improved upon his time from yesterday’s provisional qualifying session by more than half a second to start the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes ninth.

Blundell was unable to improve his lap time during final qualifying this afternoon and will start sixth on the grid. Jimmy Vasser retained the pole position with his time from Friday.

Elsewhere, West McLaren Mercedes Formula One driver Mika Hakkinen captured the pole position for tomorrow’s British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England. Hakkinen’s teammate David Coulthard qualified fourth. Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM drivers Bernd Schneider and Mark Webber also qualified on the pole at the FIA GT Championship race in Dijon, France.

Back in Cleveland, Greg Moore managed to shave nearly three-tenths of a second off of his lap time despite suffering from influenza. With other drivers also going quicker during today’s final qualifying session, however, the Player’s/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes driver slipped back one position to 12th on the grid. Fellow Player’s/Forsythe Racing pilot Patrick Carpentier had popoff-valve trouble and will start 15th.

CART rookie JJ Lehto will start the Hogan Racing entry from 21st, while fellow first-year Champ Car driver Helio Castro-Neves will start the Team Alumax machine 23rd. Andre Ribeiro never even had a chance to scrub the stickers off the tires on his Marlboro Penske/Mercedes due to mechanical problems during qualifying. He will start 24th.

Sunday’s 100-lap, 210.6-mile race will start at 12:30 p.m. and will be televised live by ABC.

Mercedes Quotes

Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Sixth - 57.039 sec. "I’m a little disappointed because we should have been a little stronger. We had a troublesome morning. We only had a limited amount of time in qualifying due to a mechanical problem. Unfortunately, the second half of the session seemed to be a bit quicker and we were unable to continue. Still, we made a turnaround at Portland. We’ve come out here strong. The situation changed when we changed dampers. Since the change we’ve been a lot more competitive. But, we have no experience with the new dampers. With time that will change."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Eighth - 57.046 sec. "We’ve definitely improved the car today. Today was a slower day due to track conditions. On my second set of tires in qualifying I was on a real good lap, but then I lost it in turn five. I was flat out in fourth gear. I did two and a half three-sixties. I had the left rear on the grass. It was a pretty spectacular spin. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one that good. It’s pretty funny, because here you have so much space. Then again, I would probably end up hitting the only thing out here. I kept my foot in the throttle so I wouldn’t hit the flag stand. The car is very consistent now, though. We ran on one set of tires for a long time this morning, and that will be good for tomorrow. Also, they’ve extended the distance of this race 10 laps from last year, so fuel could become an issue here. You could maybe have three stops instead of two tomorrow."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Ninth - 57.261 sec. "The Marlboro car feels pretty good. We helped the car this morning, and it showed in qualifying--a half-second is pretty good. We’re using the Magneti Marelli (electronics) system as part of the Mercedes engine package, and I’m really happy with that. We’re close enough now to really get out there and race with them. The gearbox is definitely the trickiest thing out there on this development car. we have to be conscious of it and just take care of it during the race."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player’s/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 12th - 57.417 sec. "Yesterday, I wasn’t feeling too well. I had a fever and didn’t get much sleep last night, so this morning, I wasn’t feeling good in the car at all. We quit after about 20 minutes, and that was unfortunate because I think we were making good progress with the car. It was faster than we showed. I’m feeling better this afternoon, but the problem is we haven’t had much running time to work on making the car faster. But the guys have done a good job, and I think we’re fairly confident about tomorrow. I’ll just go to the driver’s meeting this afternoon and then get a good night’s sleep tonight."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player’s/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 15th - 57.738 sec. "The car was better. I got clear laps, and the car was faster in some parts of the circuit than it was earlier. But we had a weak (popoff) valve, so we couldn’t run the (turbo) boost as high as we wanted, and that cost us time on the straights. But this track is wide open. We have some good sets of tires left and, with good strategy in the pits, we should be able to move up during the race."

JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 21st - 58.013 sec. "We went a couple of 10ths quicker than yesterday. But it’s difficult to get good grip. We’re on pace with the others, though. We’re not far off. There was a lot of dirt on the circuit today which made things slippery. I think there were a lot of people going off course today. Another thing, the track is so wide here it is hard to find the turn-in points for the turns. You have no reference points. The more rubber laid down in the turns, the easier it gets. If you go off line here there is a lot of dirt you can get on the tires, and that hurts you in the next turn."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 24th - 58.357 sec. "We only got six timed laps before we had engine problems. It’s tough, but not as difficult as it would be at a place like Detroit or some of these other places where it’s so difficult to overtake. Al (Unser) has a good setup, so we’ll be following his direction for the race."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Bernd Schneider , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske