CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio Mercedes Saturday Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Miller Lite 200, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio Date/Session: Sat., Aug. 14, 1999 Final Qualifying CART Drivers Dodge Raindrops at Mid-Ohio While Hakkinen Earns Formula One...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race:   Miller Lite 200, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio
Date/Session:   Sat., Aug. 14, 1999             Final Qualifying

CART Drivers Dodge Raindrops at Mid-Ohio While Hakkinen Earns Formula One Pole in Hungary

A steady drizzle prevented the six drivers with Mercedes-Benz power from improving their grid position during final qualifying today for the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Dario Franchitti, who set the track record yesterday with a 65.347-second lap (124.394 mph), will start on pole for the race tomorrow, which begins at 2:30 p.m. It will be broadcast on ABC-TV beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.

Meanwhile, in the Formula One World Championship, Mika Hakkinen earned his ninth pole of the season for the West McLaren Mercedes team today at the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary. His teammate, David Coulthard, will start third behind Eddie Irvine.

Leading the Mercedes-Benz contingent at Mid-Ohio for the CART FedEx Championship Series event tomorrow will be Helio Castro-Neves, who eared the seventh spot in the field with a 66.137-second lap (122.909 mph).

Unfortunately, two of Mercedes' quickest drivers will start at the back of the field due to unusual circumstances during yesterday's provisional qualifying. PacWest Racing/Motorola Mercedes driver Mark Blundell set the third-quickest time of the session (65.881 seconds/123.386 mph) yesterday, but was relegated to the back of the field when a post-qualifying inspection found that his car's ground clearance did not meet the two-inch minimum mandated by CART.

Also starting from the back of the grid is Player's/Forsythe Racing's Greg Moore, a regular front-runner, who went off course yesterday only three laps into the session and got stuck in the gravel trap. His time yesterday was 68.086-seconds (119.390 mph). He is 25th on the grid.

Blundell's PacWest Racing teammate, Brazil's Mauricio Gugelmin, who pilots the Hollywood Mercedes, earned the 17th spot on the grid with a lap of 66.930 seconds (121.452 mph). Marlboro Team Penske veteran Al Unser Jr. is starting 22nd with a lap of 67.292 seconds (120.799 mph).

Luiz Garcia Jr. was the only Mercedes driver to turn laps during today's final qualifying session. He concentrated on getting comfortable with his new race car, as this is his first event as teammate to Hogan Racing's Castro-Neves. Garcia's best time was a 68.040-second lap (119.471 mph), good enough for the 24th spot in the field.

Player's/Forsythe Racing/Mercedes pilot Patrick Carpentier, who suffered a minor neck-muscle injury in an accident during last week's Detroit Grand Prix, will not be driving this weekend. He is expected to return to the cockpit next week in the inaugural race at the Chicago Motor Speedway.

Mercedes Quotes

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (26th/no time) "I'm disappointed we didn't have an opportunity to put the car where it belongs on the grid. In warm up we'll just have to get the car balanced on full fuel tanks. It takes a different way of thinking when you start from the back of the grid. The team needs to be on its feet. We'll have to be very good tactically for the race tomorrow. We've had really good pit stops lately, so I think we're very good in that area."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (Seventh/66.137 seconds) "The setup is pretty good. I'm confident, but we need to finish the race. I expected to be higher on the grid. I'm frustrated. We know we can finish. I'm feeling very strong for tomorrow."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (17th/66.930 seconds) "Warm up will now be very important for us. Normally you have two days to get going. Now we're a day behind. We'll have to scrub tires and make sure we have a good race car to make up positions and move forward. We have a lot to do, but we can achieve it."

Luiz Garcia Jr., No. 21, Hogan Racing/Tang Mercedes/Firestone (24th/68.040 seconds) "Basically, every session is important to me. We lost a session, and that hurts a lot in terms of building up confidence in the race car. I have a car that is capable of moving up. We'll concentrate on getting comfortable in the car. There were a couple of things we wanted to try with the setup today that we never got a chance to do."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (25th/68.086 seconds) "We'll just have to do something special tomorrow to move up. We'll have to take more chances than we would if we were in the top five. If we do a good job tomorrow, maybe we can finish in the top five. Passing will be a matter of catching people off guard and surprising them. We'll have to be aggressive on the race track, and aggressive with our pit strategy as well."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Irvine , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Luiz Garcia Jr.
Teams Team Penske