CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Motegi Thursday Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Firestone Firehawk 500, Twin Ring Motegi (Japan) Date/Session: Thursday, April 8, 1999 Practice Gugelmin Leads Mercedes Contingent At Firestone Firehawk 500 Practice ...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race: Firestone Firehawk 500, Twin Ring Motegi (Japan) Date/Session: Thursday, April 8, 1999 Practice

Gugelmin Leads Mercedes Contingent At Firestone Firehawk 500 Practice

Mercedes-Benz-powered Champ car driver Mauricio Gugelmin posted the second-fastest lap during a cold and windy practice session today for the Firestone Firehawk 500 at the 1.549-mile Twin Ring Motegi, Japan, site of the second round of the CART FedEx Championship Series.

"Big Mo," the fastest man in racing for his record-setting lap of 240.942 mph in 1997, posted a lap time of 25.742 seconds (216.627 mph) in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes. He was just one one-hundredth of a second behind last year's race winner Adrian Fernandez, who was fastest with a lap of 25.732 seconds (216.711 mph).

Player's/Forsythe Mercedes driver Greg Moore, who won the pole and the race at the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, improved throughout the session to finish sixth overall, posting a lap of 25.907 seconds (215.247 mph). Teammate Patrick Carpentier turned a lap of 26.074 seconds (213.868 mph) for 10th place in the afternoon session and 15th overall. Gugelmin's teammate, Mark Blundell, celebrating his 33rd birthday, posted a lap of 26.147 seconds (213.271 mph) in his PacWest Motorola Mercedes for 18th place overall.

Rookie Tarso Marques, making his first Champ car appearance, was 21st with a lap of 26.287 seconds (212.135 mph). Brazilian Marques, 23, earned the ride in the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes after Al Unser Jr. was injured at the Miami season-opener.

Helio Castro-Neves' crew worked on both of his Hogan Racing Mercedes race cars throughout the day. He wound up 24th with a lap time of 26.631 seconds (209.395 mph). Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes Rookie Shigeaki Hattori completed his first full practice following a crash in Miami, and was 27th with a lap time of 27.148 seconds (205.407 mph).

Drivers will qualify Friday (Thursday evening in the United States) while the green flag for the Firestone Firehawk 500 will wave Saturday, April 10, at 1:05 p.m. in Japan. The race will be televised live on ESPN in the U.S. at midnight Friday, April 9.

Mercedes Quotes

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone "We had a decent test at Nazareth and made the decision to come here with the same set up we had there. It's quite different than what we had at Homestead, and it has transferred here really well. The balance is good. The wind is a problem, not in the corners, but on the straights. It jerks the car, and almost makes it feel like the car has broken. It would be difficult to race like this, but it's the same for everybody. The car feels great and I am pretty happy."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "The wind was a factor on the straights today, especially the back straight. We tried some different things this morning, but they didn't work out. We came back to the set up we had here last year, and it worked."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone "I'm pretty happy. We had a problem this morning with the tire temperature, but it was much better this afternoon. We made some changes to the car, and tomorrow we'll be faster."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone "We had a comfortable balance in the car this morning, we just needed to find a little bit of speed in turns three and four. We worked on taking some drag out. We didn't have too much to find in corner speed, but we were looking for a bit more straight-line speed. We made good progress in the afternoon. The engineers did a good job and we definitely improved. We'll see what happens tomorrow in terms of the weather. We didn't run with anybody to get a tow today, so I think there is definitely some more speed for us there. I'm quite confident we have a good race car."

Tarso Marques, No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear "It was very exciting for me to drive on the big oval for the first time at more than 212 mph. Every oval is a unique challenge and for sure you must always be driving on the edge. We worked hard on getting up to speed in the car under the cold and windy conditions. I am pleased with the performance of the Marlboro Mercedes Penske. We came up to speed quickly and focused on running consistent laps. After my first day I can see why CART racing is so competitive. Everyone's lap times are very close. It's great to be here running with these guys."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone "We had a very difficult day. Unfortunately the set up wasn't one of the best and we had problems with both cars. It's been very windy and I wanted to be careful and not make any mistakes early in the weekend. Of course we're going to work on things and get them where we need to be. Tomorrow is another day."

Shigeaki Hattori, No. 16, Bettenhausen Motorsports/Mercedes/Firestone "We dropped a half second between the morning and afternoon sessions. The car was pushing in the morning but we were being very conservative to balance the wind. We wanted to make small changes so we wouldn't go too far. The car is getting better and is more stable. The most important thing today was getting my confidence level up. I am concentrating very well and the team is very supportive."

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