Fernandez Fast In First Lola Qualifying Bests field to guarantee front row start Fernandez Racing and its co-owner/driver Adrian Fernandez showed the Champ Car community the value of their switch to the Lola B02/00 chassis for the 2002 season,...
Fernandez Fast In First Lola Qualifying
Bests field to guarantee front row start
Fernandez Racing and its co-owner/driver Adrian Fernandez showed the Champ Car community the value of their switch to the Lola B02/00 chassis for the 2002 season, nabbing the first championship point of the campaign in provisional qualifying for Sunday's 2nd annual Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey.
Under new CART rules, Fernandez is guaranteed a front-row start for this season-opener, held at the 11-turn, 2.104-mile Fundidora Park road course in Monterrey, Mexico, due to his quick lap of 78.929 seconds (95.965mph). That this Nuevo Leon city is home to Fernandez' Tecate Beer sponsor made the achievement even more satisfying for the Mexican ace. "This couldn't have happened at a better place," Fernandez exulted.
"What a difference a year makes," he said. "Last March, we were a three-month old team making our debut at one of our most important races. Now, we are much better organized" and that truth was revealed to his rivals today. Fernandez has "no doubt we will be competitive this year" following aggressive off-season testing work by both Fernandez and teammate Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Lola/Honda).
Lola cars took seven of the top ten slots in the first time trials of the year, held under sunny, 81-degree skies in front of about 65,000 race fans. Newman/Haas teammates Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Eli Lilly Lola/Toyota) and Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Lola/Toyota) were fourth and fifth. Fittipaldi's pole-winning lap was disallowed after he caused a red flag stoppage. Da Matta, fastest in the morning, fell prey to red flags.
Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr., born and raised in Mexico City, gave the local fans more reasons to cheer, bringing his #9 Gigante-sponsored Lola/Ford to sixth on the grid and holding top spot until beyond the hour-long session's checkered flags. The 7th-year CART veteran used his allotted 15 laps with five minutes remaining in the hour. Teammate Jimmy Vasser was 10th in the #8 Shell Lola/Ford.
Team Target's Bruno Junqueira (#4 Lola/Toyota) and Kenny Brack (#12) logged the 7th and 8th best laps, respectively for the day, and Brack admitted "today was fair. I was hoping for better, but that's where we're at."
Saturday's qualifying is set to take place under similar conditions at mid-afternoon. Again, only 15 laps are allowed during the hour and only two sets of tires are permitted. Speed Channel offers delayed broadcast of both Friday and Saturday time trials, while the race airs live on Sunday, beginning at 4 p.m. EST.