SEBRING, Fla. (February 24, 2000)---The winningest active Champ or Indy car driver, Michael Andretti, completed his first test of the 2000-spec Ford-Cosworth Lola today at Sebring International Raceway. It was Andretti's first time to drive on a...
SEBRING, Fla. (February 24, 2000)---The winningest active Champ or Indy car driver, Michael Andretti, completed his first test of the 2000-spec Ford-Cosworth Lola today at Sebring International Raceway. It was Andretti's first time to drive on a road course since the Honda IndyCarnival in Surfers Paradise, Australia on October 17, 1999. It was also his first road course test in the Lola chassis, which the team switched to for 2000, as well as his first road course test with the new Ford-Cosworth XF engine.
"It was good to get back to a road course," said Andretti, who had not driven on this type of course in over four months. "We had some minor problems on the first day but were able to get in some good testing on the second and third days."
The first day of testing, Tuesday, February 22, was cut short after the team encountered problems. Because the team had yet to complete 50 miles, the test day will not count toward the maximum of 16 days allowed (out-of-season) per new rules for 2000 by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART).
On Wednesday, Andretti completed 165 miles in the No. 6 Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Lola on the 1.65-mile road course. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. provided a variety of tire compounds therefore it was difficult to measure progress compared to others at the test.
The team ran on Thursday until rain forced a break around noon local time but were able to resume by 2 p.m. After running a variety of set-ups, Andretti clocked an unofficial lap time of approx. 50.7 seconds and ran 160 miles during the day.
"It was good to run the Ford XF on a road course for the first time," said Andretti. "Christian has been talking about how good the engine was since he set the fastest time back in December. The team was mostly trying to get me acclimated in the new Lola on a road course. It is a steep learning curve for me but we are making good progress. I only ran one lap on the softer compound on Wednesday and didn't get in a complete lap so I don't know how we stack up. As of right now, I think we are only four or five-tenths off the pace which is understandable since neither I nor the team has tested at Sebring as much as some of the others."
The team plans to continue road course testing with Andretti at the Miami-Homestead road course on March 1-2. Overall, the next test is schedule for February 28-29 at the oval track at Phoenix International Raceway. Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi will take over the testing duties in Phoenix.
The CART FedEx Championship Series season begins on March 26 with the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Andretti won back-to-back events in 1997 and 1998 and finished second to Greg Moore in 1999. The first road/street course race takes place on April 16 at the Toyota GP of Long Beach.