CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Mercedes Benz Teams Focus on Race Setup

Race: U.S. 500, Michigan Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich. Date/Session: Saturday, July 24, 1999 Qualifying Mercedes-Benz Teams Focus on Race Set Up at Michigan Mercedes-Benz powered Champ Car teams head into Sunday's U.S.

Race: U.S. 500, Michigan Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich. Date/Session: Saturday, July 24, 1999 Qualifying

Mercedes-Benz Teams Focus on Race Set Up at Michigan

Mercedes-Benz powered Champ Car teams head into Sunday's U.S. 500 disappointed in their qualifying positions, but confident that their race cars are capable and competitive for the long, grueling duel over Michigan Speedway's two-mile oval. Of all the races in the CART FedEx Championship Series, initial position on the grid is least important here (and at the similar California Speedway) because the Handford Device makes passing relatively easy and places a premium on drafting and each car's handling qualities in traffic.

In fact, during practice throughout the weekend, Mercedes-powered race cars were often near the top of the time sheets while driving in the traffic that -- as opposed to single-car qualifying -- more closely resembles racing conditions.

Polesitter Jimmy Vasser will lead the grid at the green flag with a qualifying lap of 31.358 seconds (229.606 mph). Meanwhile, the five teams using the Mercedes-Benz IC108E Phase III engine focused on optimizing the balance of their Champ Cars to run in traffic during the 250-lap race. Last year, Mercedes driver Greg Moore won here from the 14th position in a race that featured 62 lead changes, arguably one of the most competitive races in CART history.

Patrick Carpentier's qualifying lap of 31.729 seconds (226.922 mph) earns the Player's/Forsythe Mercedes driver 12th position on the grid. Roberto Moreno, substituting for the injured Mark Blundell, piloted his PacWest Motorola Mercedes to a quick lap of 31.761 seconds (226.693 mph), and will start from the sixth row. Alongside Moreno is his PacWest Racing teammate, Hollywood Mercedes driver Mauricio Gugelmin, who is making his 100th Champ Car start tomorrow. "Big Mo" lapped the Speedway in 31.829 seconds (226.209 mph).

Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes teammates Al Unser Jr. and Alex Barron will start from the ninth row after recording qualifying laps of 31.879 (225.854 mph) and 31.961 (225.275 mph), respectively. Helio Castro-Neves pilots his Hogan Racing Mercedes from 19th position after lapping Michigan's oval in 32.012 seconds (224.916 mph). Moore and his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes will take the green flag from 21st position (32.204 seconds/223.575 mph). Moore has earned driver's championship points in every oval race thus far this season.

Mercedes, Hakkinen Capture Pole at Austrian Grand Prix Mika Hakkinen and the West McLaren Mercedes team earned the pole position, and teammate David Coulthard will start alongside on the front row of the grid, for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix at the A-1 Ring in Spielberg, Austria, as the team continues to defend its 1998 Formula One World Championship.

Mercedes Quotes Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (12th/31.729 seconds) "We've concentrated on full-tank runs, and making sure the car is stable for the race. The drafting will be the key tomorrow - if you can keep the throttle wide open, even if you're not the quickest on the straights - you can pass by using the momentum. I think we're in good shape for tomorrow's race."

Roberto Moreno, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (13th/31.761 seconds) "We have a race car that handles very well in traffic. The Mercedes/Reynard/Firestone package is the one to have here. You need the power to keep you up there, and we have the car balanced so we can run up and down the race track. Tomorrow will be interesting. The tow you get when you're behind someone is unbelievable."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (14th/31.829 seconds) "The balance has been perfect. We were expecting a little more, but I think we have a good race car. The engineers have done a great job, there was just nothing else I could do. If the car is well-balanced, and you can run high lines during the race, then you will do well here. And we've got that."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (17th/31.879 seconds) "I was happy with the car in qualifying. It was a good lap. We chose to race the Penske chassis here because the Lola felt "draggy" in testing on this race track. I'm happy with that decision."

Alex Barron, No. 3, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (18th/31. 961 seconds) "We didn't qualify as well as we wanted, but for race day, I think we'll have a good car. I'm real pleased with the balance of the car. This weekend I just need to focus on a good result. There is pressure, but I think you need the pressure. If there is no pressure, then that means nobody is watching what you're doing. I'm sure we'll all have our hands full with traffic in the race."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (19th/32.012 seconds) "I am very comfortable with the car. I was flat all the way around today, and while I wasn't very, very fast, the car was stable and that's the secret here. This smaller wing makes the draft so important. If you wind up behind someone, and they move a little bit, you lose the downforce. We've always been successful on the ovals, and while the Lola is a little bit draggy, I am happy with our set up for tomorrow. To finish the long race will be success for us, but I have a little more than that up my sleeve."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (21st/32.204 seconds) "Speed in qualifying just doesn't need to be there. Our car is really, really good in traffic, and we've made very few changes today. The Mercedes engine has a lot of power here. We have a good shot no matter where we are in this field. We'll just work our way to the front, and be there for the shootout in the last 15 laps."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Alex Barron , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske