CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Rocketsports Racing Friday report

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2004) Rocketsports Racing drivers Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe had their first experience with the Champ Car World Series special qualifying format introduced for the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey in Mexico.

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2004) Rocketsports Racing drivers Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe had their first experience with the Champ Car World Series special qualifying format introduced for the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey in Mexico. The new format ensured consistent on-track activity as three separate segments were run to determine the top qualifiers of the day.

Drivers were randomly split into two groups for two fifteen minute segments. Tagliani landed in the first group, while Philippe ran with the second. The top-five from each segment then competed in the final fifteen minute segment, which produced the top ten grid positions for first day qualifying.

In his initial segment, Tagliani was third quickest with a time of 1:16.712 (98.738 Mph or 158.903 Km/h). Tagliani progressed to the final segment where he finished fourth overall with a time of 1:17.503 (97.730 mph or 157.281 Km/h). In the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola, Tagliani, who finished on the podium here last season, worked on finding his groove on the 2.104 mile (3.386 Km) permanent road course.

"We're looking for more speed and less push in the car. We tweaked many things and will continue to make improvements," said Tagliani. "Tomorrow's qualifying will be very important, but today was a good opportunity to pay attention to the setup of the car."

When asked about the new qualifying format, Tagliani said, "The various stages of qualifying took some pressure off of us today and allowed us to focus more on the performance of the car, especially in the hairpin and chicane."

Nelson Philippe in the No. 17 LeasePlan Lola took the number 16 spot in the first day of qualifying with a time of 1:18.373 (96.646 mph or 155.536 Km/h). While he echoed his teammate's sentiments about the different format, he also pointed out the advantage of having a greater emphasis on the second day of qualifying.

"Overall we (LeasePlan team) focused on the setup of the car and improved our time from this morning. We got more out of the car, but will continue to look for ways to make is faster. The surface of the track will also improve for tomorrow when qualifying well will be more important.

"The track was very slippery today and it was tough to get good grip. Unlike a street course, if you push too hard here, you'll end up in the grass. We'll make improvements and with the car at its best, I plan to pass where/when possible and make it a good race on Sunday."

Saturday's qualifying session will involve all drivers in a 30-minute segment followed by a "Pole Shootout." The top nine drivers from the 30-minute session, plus Friday's top qualifier (Sebastien Bourdais), will then run seven laps each in the "Shootout" for a shot at the pole. Positions 1-10 on the starting grid will be determined by the Shootout, while positions 11-18 will be derived from the times taken in the initial 30-minute session.

Catch Tagliani and Philippe in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix on SPIKE TV at 4:00 PM ET.

-rsr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe