Friday Qualifying: Toronto Molson Indy by Kristian Steenstrup, Motorsport News International Toronto, Ontario, Canada ( July 16, 1999) The Newman-Haas team led out the first and 'fastest' session at 2:30 p.m. sharp taking advantage of their ...
Friday Qualifying: Toronto Molson Indy by Kristian Steenstrup, Motorsport News International
Toronto, Ontario, Canada ( July 16, 1999) The Newman-Haas team led out the first and 'fastest' session at 2:30 p.m. sharp taking advantage of their position at the front of the pit lineup. However the first of the fastest was Tony Kanaan who on his first hot lap was quicker than anyone in the morning warm-up session. But on his very next lap he tangled with Christian Fittipaldi at turn 8 and although there was no significant damage to either car he and Fittipaldi returned to the pits for a check over and an enforced 8 minute 'timeout' penalty for bringing out the red flag in the session. Kanaan was disappointed: "I had a good first lap and I was really trying on the second and made a little mistake which cost me eight minutes because I brought out a red flag".
Very quickly, 10 minutes into the session everyone was under 1 minute lap times confirming this group as faster and that the track had got faster in the afternoon. Within three laps Gil de Ferran went fastest with 58.357 seconds and stayed at the top of the charts for much of the session. The track seemed to 'plateau' in grip in the middle of the session as Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy failed to go better.
With 6 minutes to go Dario Franchitti set the track alight with the first lap under 58 seconds at 57.951. Even the next lap he completed was good enough to be ahead of the now second placed Gil de Ferran. Gil then responded with a 58.091 bringing him closer to Franchitti but not close enough. There was still a big effort from drivers like Tracy who locked the brakes during his hot lap at turn one and decided to go straight ahead rather than make the turn. Strangely Montoya went fastest on his first lap and then in the next eight never got faster. He tried hard with his last lap in the available time and put in a strong performance. But he remained 7th in the session.
At the end of this session then we had Franchitti, de Ferran and Andretti. The whole group was covered by less than 1.2 seconds, which reinforced the competitiveness of Champ Car racing right now. After a 15 minute break the second 'slower' group came out to see what they could do.
Right on schedule the group came out led by Patrick Carpentier. By the second lap Roberto Moreno was under the magic 60 seconds, but still slower overall than his teammate Mauricio Gugelmin who ran in the first session. The first intruder on the leading group was Cristiano da Matta, but this was quickly trumped by Scott Pruett who on only his third lap sprung up to 10th with 20 minutes of the session to go.
Once again the middle of the session had little to get excited about, as the laps completed were all slower than the first session. Sadly at this stage the expected stars Al Unser Jr. and Robby Gordon were dwelling in the cellar of lap times. The only slower cars were Dennis Vitolo and Shigeaki Hattori. Even such as rookie Memo Gidley and the occasional participant Gaulter Salles were faster than this pair of Champ car veterans. Strange days indeed for a couple of experienced, but unhappy travelers.
It was not until 10 minutes from the end of the session that a faster lap came from the group. Patrick Carpentier displaced Scott Pruett in 10 th overall. With seven minutes to go Roberto Moreno, the substitute for Mark Blundell went 10th overall. The challenge was immediately taken up by Pruett who in turn edge out Moreno by two hundredths of a second. This put Moreno nearly 4 tenths of a second faster than his temporary teammate Guglemin. Curiously everyone appeared to be improving but by such small margins that the order was not being altered until Helio Castro-Neves put in a 58.534 second lap which was good enough for seventh place overall and
So the session finished with the top six from the earlier group remaining at the top and the only interlopers from the second group being Castro-Neves, Pruett, Moreno and Carpentier. The overall top three ironically are the same from last year here at Toronto: Franchitti, de Ferran, and Andretti. Michael Andretti comes here having had to come back from a big development deficit. He describes it as follows: " we were on steep learning curve. We switched to Firestone only a couple of weeks before the season started. We really put ourselves behind. I think the Firestones are better, but they are quite different from the Goodyears. We learned a lot from Long Beach to when we finally got to Road Courses".
It is to his and the teams credit that with such a fundamental change at the beginning of the season they can claw there way back by mid season to where they were last year.