CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Rio GP Qualifying Report

Race: GP Telemar Rio 200, Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Date/Session: Friday, May 14, 1999 Qualifying Three Mercedes Drivers Qualify in Top 10 For GP Telemar Rio 200 A trio of Mercedes-Benz drivers,...

Race:  GP Telemar Rio 200, Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
Date/Session:  Friday, May 14, 1999             Qualifying

Three Mercedes Drivers Qualify in Top 10 For GP Telemar Rio 200 A trio of Mercedes-Benz drivers, including rookie Brazilian Tarso Marques, qualified in the top 10 on the starting grid for tomorrow's GP Telemar Rio 200, round five of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Christian Fittipaldi earned the pole position for the race with a lap of 38.565 seconds (174.002 mph). Marlboro Team Penske rookie Tarso Marques led the Mercedes contingent with an eighth-place lap time of 39.007 seconds (172.031 mph). Native Brazilian Marques joins Al Unser Jr., in a second Penske Champ Car after subbing for the injured veteran in Japan and Long Beach, Calif. Player's/Forsythe pilot Patrick Carpentier scored a qualifying time of 39.043 seconds (171.872 mph) to earn ninth place. Defending race winner Greg Moore will start next to teammate Carpentier in the fifth row with a qualifying time of 39.185 seconds (171.249 mph). Moore, who won last yearÆs race with dazzling passing after starting from seventh position, is currently third in the PPG Cup driverÆs championship contest. Helio Castro-Neves, who set the fastest laps of competition in Japan and Nazareth, Pa., with his Hogan Racing Mercedes Lola race car, struggled today, and placed 11th (39.302 seconds/170.739 mph). Al Unser Jr., posted a qualifying time of 39.807 seconds (168.573 mph) for 19th position. Gualter Salles, the third-year Brazilian driver substituting for rookie Shigeaki Hattori in the Bettenhausen Motorsports race car qualified in 21st place (39.982 seconds/167.836 mph). Roberto Moreno, who joined the PacWest Racing team this week as a replacement driver for Mark Blundell, will start from 23rd position (40.121 seconds/167.254 mph). Blundell was injured during testing at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis on May 4th. Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin, who won pole here in 1997, was forced to abort his qualifying attempt during the warm up lap due to mechanical problems, and did not post a qualifying time with his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes. Gugelmin will start from 25th position tomorrow. The green flag for the GP Telemar Rio 200 will wave Saturday, May 15, at 1:00 p.m. local time (tape delay, Sunday, ABC-TV, 4-6 p.m. Eastern).

Mercedes Quotes

Tarso Marques, No. 3, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear (Eighth / 39.007 seconds) "We still have to work on the set up but it is moving in the right direction. The track is pretty dirty from the rain. The line is not bad, but if you go outside the line it gets a little bit rougher."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Ninth / 39.043 seconds) "The team did a good job in making improvements after the morning session. I pushed hard coming into turn four and just had too much push and had to wait to go to the power. The engine felt good, and I am still pretty happy with today's effort."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (10th / 39.185 seconds) "Obviously we're not where we want to be, but we are a half second faster than this morning. We made a big improvement, but we're not there yet. We'll be better tomorrow. I'm not worried. This is one of the best tracks that we drive. There are so many passing opportunities-inside, outside, both turns. It's a lot of fun."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (11th / 39.302 seconds) "We kept improving the car today. This is our first time with this set up. We have no data from last year with the Lola. I need to make up time on turn four. Turn one is already on the edge, but there is also some drag on the straights that I believe everyone is also dealing with. The track is very bumpy, but it's the same for everybody. Tomorrow is the important day."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear (19th / 39.807 seconds) "The car was a little on the loose side during qualifying. We may have missed a little bit on our downforce, but other than that it was a good run. We're in the show. Tomorrow's payday."

Gualter Salles, No. 16, Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports/Mercedes/Goodyear (21st / 39.989 seconds) "We made some good changes since the morning practice, and our strategy was to take it easy on the first lap, and then push for it on the second one. I pushed hard to open the second lap. I had done the corner already, that's what was so strange; I did the turn and then coming off it, I just lost it. I tried to collect the car but I couldn't. The engine felt really good, our changes to the set up from the practice were taking us in the right direction. It's such a pity."

Roberto Moreno, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (23rd / 40.121 seconds) "We came with a set up that was more toward an oval-Mo had a road course set up. After this morning we changed to more of a road-course set up and the car is doing better. There is very hard braking out of turn four and at the end of the front straight into turn one. Those places are the key places to gain speed. We need a car that brakes straight and deep. This morning we didn't have that, but now we are working ourselves toward that. We have a couple of more steps to go for the race, but in a very short time we have gotten the Motorola car to go quicker."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (25th / No time) "Unfortunately we suffered a mechanical problem and had to abort our qualifying attempt. The pop-off valve was open all the way around. We were prepared to go out again with our second valve, but there was no time remaining, and we were unable to qualify. It's a real shame because I think we had a good chance to be at the front of the grid."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gualter Salles , Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Tarso Marques , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Al Unser Sr. , Emerson Fittipaldi , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske