CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Friday Practice Report

Race: Bosch Sport Plug Grand Prix, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa. Date/Session: Friday, April 30, 1999 Practice - Day Two Mercedes-powered Champ car drivers scored the three fastest laps at the second day of practice sessions for the...

Race:  Bosch Sport Plug Grand Prix, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa.
Date/Session:  Friday, April 30, 1999 Practice - Day Two

Mercedes-powered Champ car drivers scored the three fastest laps at the second day of practice sessions for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, the fourth round of the CART FedEx Championship Series, and earned five of the top 10 spots heading into tomorrowÆs qualifying session. The tight, 0.946-mile Nazareth Speedway tri-oval and the introduction of a new speedway wing package has raised controversy within the CART community, but the compact Mercedes V8 powerplant convincingly dominated today. Hogan Racing's Castro-Neves rocketed to a lap of 19.759 seconds (172.357 mph) in his Mercedes Lola race car, putting the second-year driver more than three miles per hour ahead of the rest of the field. PacWest Motorola Mercedes driver Mark Blundell flashed a lap in 20.134 seconds (169.147 mph), while Player's/Forsythe hotshot Greg Moore, the PPG Cup driver's championship points leader, improved his set up to post a lap in 20.142 seconds (169.080 mph). Moore's teammate Patrick Carpentier, polesitter here in record time one year ago, finished eighth with a lap in 20.228 seconds (168.361 seconds), while Mauricio Gugelmin took ninth place with a lap in 20.294 seconds (167.813 mph) in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes Champ Car. Al Unser Jr., returning to the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes cockpit for the first time since his crash at Homestead's season opener, improved yesterday's times to record a lap in 20.785 seconds (163.849 mph). Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie Shigeaki Hattori spun in turn four and made contact with the wall, damaging the left rear corner of his Reynard. Shigeaki was checked and released from the CART Medical Center with no injuries, but the team withdrew from the race. Drivers will qualify on Saturday. The green flag for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix will wave Sunday, May 2, at 12:30 p.m. (live, ESPN).

Mercedes Quotes Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (First/19.759 seconds) "The car is really handling well. The team is doing an excellent job, just unbelievable. WeÆre having fun out there. There was not much traffic, and we were able to go clean. We're going to keep working hard. We believe in ourselves. The most important thing for the race is for everyone to be patient and look out for each other."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (Second/20.134 seconds) "We lost two sets of tires, so that might make things a little tough. The balance on the car was pretty reasonable. We still have more to find, but we're already making steady progress. The team is getting on track now, we have the resources and the people. We're getting back to the top. ôI am not in favor of this wing package. And I don't think it will be a great race in terms of passing."

Greg Moore, No. 99, PlayerÆs/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Third/20.142 seconds) "I felt much better this afternoon than I did yesterday. We found a couple of things to improve the set up, but by no means are we there yet. But I wanted to make sure that we got some good times today. If you qualify well, you have a better shot of winning the race. "This race is more about the car than the driver. It's not going to be a passing race, it's going to be follow-the-leader, and we have to make sure we're the leader after the last pit stops. If we have pit stops like we did in Japan, we'll be able to pass in the pits and get to the front." Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, PlayerÆs/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Eighth/20.228 seconds) "When we improved the front, then the rear was not so good. And it was the other way around as well. We're still chasing it. We always had a good way to set up but now we need to find a new way. The team is working hard, hopefully we can find something that works."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (Ninth/20.294 seconds) "I'm still not happy with the understeer on the race car. I had a lot of push today, again. The high line on this track is a no-no; there is no downforce on that line."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear (23rd/20.785 seconds) "We're not where we want to be yet with the Marlboro Penske Mercedes, but we have tomorrow to continue working on the car. Today we were focused on putting a lot of miles on our Goodyear tires so we're ready for long runs in the race. "The ankle has not been a problem at all. The only change we made to the car was to soften the throttle spring a little bit, otherwise it's business as usual. Driving the Marlboro car is really the best therapy for me. Once the adrenaline gets going the pain goes away. It's actually harder for me to get around on my crutches than it is to drive the car."

Shigeaki Hattori, No. 16, Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes (26th/23.164 seconds) "I was fighting the car all the way around the track. I found that the low downforce wing package makes the car very unstable to drive. I feel very bad for the team because I know they are working very hard for me. We just need more experience."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske