Ribeiro One Of Five Drivers To Top Track Record In Marlboro 500 Practice FIVE DRIVERS TOP TRACK RECORD DURING MARLBORO 500 PRACTICE SESSIONS BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 26, 1996) Five drivers, led by Andre Ribeiro of Tasman Motorsports, surpassed...
Ribeiro One Of Five Drivers To Top Track Record In Marlboro 500 Practice
FIVE DRIVERS TOP TRACK RECORD DURING MARLBORO 500 PRACTICE SESSIONS
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 26, 1996) Five drivers, led by Andre Ribeiro of Tasman Motorsports, surpassed the existing track record during Friday's practice sessions for the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway.
Ribeiro, who won the pole at the recent Molson Indy Toronto, ran a lap of 235.714 miles per hour in the LCI International Lola Honda to better the one-lap qualifying record of 234.275 mph set by Mario Andretti in 1993 on the 2-mile oval. Ribeiro, as well as the rest of the 26-car field, will attempt to officially break that mark at pole qualifying Saturday, which begins at 10:30 a.m. ET.
The pole winner will earn $10,000 from the Marlboro Pole Award program and be in position to win an additional $45,000 in rollover bonus money by winning the race. A second qualifying session, for those unable to qualify with the opening group, will be available at 3 p.m. ET. That group, however, will be ineligible for the pole position.
"We were concentrating on full tanks and race runs this session," Ribeiro said. "Obviously, we are happy with the car. I think we still need a few changes for tomorrow [Saturday] to have a good car for the race."
Ribeiro was one of three drivers to surpass Andretti's record in the opening practice session. He was followed in the group by the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing tandem of rookie Alex Zanardi and PPG Cup points leader Jimmy Vasser.
Zanardi, who has qualified on the front row for the past three races, ran a lap of 235.329 mph in a Target Reynard Honda and held onto the second-fastest position for the day.
"We started today with the same setup we ran at the U.S. 500 but a fresh engine," said Zanardi, who won poles at Rio and Portland. "We've improved it a little bit since then. The car is very good, but not perfect. We need to make it just a little bit better and I know we can."
Vasser had a lap of 234.287 mph in his Target Reynard Honda, but he fell from third to fifth after the completion of the afternoon session. He also had a lap of 234.271 mph in the later session, which was just shy of topping the mark again.
"We're still working to get the car perfect," said Vasser, who won The Inaugural U.S. 500 at MIS from the pole in May. "We expected it to be a lot warmer, but we're in good shape for qualifying tomorrow [Saturday]."
The Marlboro Team Penske duo of Paul Tracy and Al Unser Jr. led the charge in the second session with an improved and more powerful Mercedes-Benz engine. Tracy, who has two poles on the season, was the fastest of the group and third-quickest overall with a lap of 234.634 mph in a Marlboro Penske Mercedes.
"It is just much more powerful," Tracy said of the engine. "It's the one we started the season with, but it wasn't reliable. We shied away from it for awhile, but last week on our dyno it ran three 500-mile races. We're quite confident in it."
Unser Jr., seeking his first pole since 1994 at Mid-Ohio, was second-fastest in the session to move to fourth overall with a lap of 234.418 mph in a Marlboro Penske Mercedes.
"The new Mercedes engine is running really well and the power's great," Unser Jr. said. "Our biggest gain since racing here at the U.S. 500 is the chassis itself. We've learned quite a bit about the car from our test sessions at MIS, and I think that was reflected in Marlboro Team Penske's times today."
ESPN will televise Marlboro 500 pole qualifying on a tape-delay basis Saturday, beginning at 6 p.m. ET. ABC-TV will broadcast same-day coverage of the Marlboro 500, which starts at 1 p.m. ET, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday.