CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Friday track notes

Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi, Japan for Qualifying Day! Today the FedEx Championship Series will set the grid for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 in the qualifying sessions set to take the Green Flag at 1:15 p.m. First up on the CART ...

Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi, Japan for Qualifying Day! Today the FedEx Championship Series will set the grid for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 in the qualifying sessions set to take the Green Flag at 1:15 p.m. First up on the CART schedule this morning is a split-group practice session. Each group will be on-track for 45 minutes with the faster drivers from yesterday's practice sessions driving in Group Two. KENNY BRACK is the fastest driver from yesterday with a speed of 213.885 mph (344.215 kph; 26.072 seconds).

This morning's weather is again almost perfect, spring-like temperatures and a light breeze from the first turn grandstands. But the puffy cumulonimbus clouds dotting the sky may bring the rains before the day is through. This keeps the pressure on the teams to log as fast of a lap as possible this morning as the qualifying could be rained out. If so, the grid for Saturday's race will be set by the combined practice speeds set by the competitors in yesterday's and this morning's practice sessions.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:45 a.m. to start the Group One practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 92 degrees F. ( 30 C.) and an ambient temperature of 72 degrees F. ( 20 C.) at the start of the session.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 9:47 a.m. after #32 GIDLEY has a plume of smoke erupt from the car as the driver exits Turn 2. GIDLEY pulls low on course and heads to his Pit Box as the crew readies the secondary car for use in the remainder of the session.

At 9:55 a.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest Group One driver is #10X FONTANA with a lap of 191.189 mph (307.689 kph; 29.167 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (183.888; 295.939 kph; 30.325 seconds) and #18 BLUNDELL (177.689 mph; 285.963 kph; 31.383 seconds). Most of the Group One drivers have not had a chance to get their cars warmed up and up to speed as the Yellow Flag flew 2 minutes into the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:57 a.m. to resume the Group One session.

At 10:05 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest Group One driver is now #17 GUGELMIN with a lap of 207.139 mph (333.358 kph; 26.921 seconds), followed by #96 SERVIA (207.055 mph; 333.223 kph; 26.932 seconds) and #40 FERNANDEZ (207.047 mph; 333.210 kph; 26.933 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:06 a.m. after CART course observers report debris on the course on the backstretch. CART safety workers quickly clean the backstretch and head back to their stations.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:08 a.m. to resume the Group One practice session.

At 10:15 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #40 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 212.006 mph (341.191 kph; 26.303 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (210.287 mph; 338.424 kph; 26.518 seconds) and #96 SERVIA (208.129 mph; 334.951 kph; 26.793 seconds).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:18 a.m. to #19 KUROSAWA after CART course observers report smoke from the car while at speed around the track. KUROSAWA subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:21 a.m. after CART course observers report debris in Turn 1. CART safety workers quickly clean the track and head back to their safety stations.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:23 a.m. to resume the session.

At 10:25 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #40 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 212.006 mph (341.191 kph; 26.303 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN ((210.287 mph; 338.424 kph; 26.518 seconds) and #96 SERVIA (208.417 mph; 335.415 kph; 26.756 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:26 a.m. after #10X FONTANA breaks traction in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. The car heads up the banking backwards and makes hard impact with the rear of the car against the outside wall. The car slides to a stop in the middle of the track at the exit of Turn 2. FONTANA exits the car under his own power and is immediately attended to by CART safety workers.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:27 a.m. to end the Group One session as CART Race Control has determined that there will not be enough time to clean the track from the FONTANA incident before the scheduled end of the Group One session. #40 FERNANDEZ is the fastest of the Group One session with a speed of 212.079 mph (341.308 kph; 26.294 seconds; fourth-fastest of the weekend so far), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (210.287 mph; 338.424 kph; 26.518 seconds) and #96 SERVIA (208.448 mph; 335.465 kph; 26.752 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:50 a.m. to start the Group Two practice session. This Green Flag waves five minutes late due to clean-up efforts from the #10 FONTANA incident.

At 11 a.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is #1 MONTOYA (211.235 mph; 339.950 kph; 26.399 seconds; second-fastest overall today), followed by #12X VASSER (210.406 mph; 338.616 kph; 26.503 seconds; third-fastest overall today) and #8 BRACK (209.828 mph; 337.685 kph; 26.576 seconds; sixth-fastest overall today).

At 11:10 a.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is still #1 MONTOYA with a lap of 211.235 mph (339.950 kph; 26.399 seconds; second-fastest overall today), followed by #12X VASSER (210.406 mph; 338.616 kph; 26.503 seconds; third-fastest overall today) and #8 BRACK (210.224 mph; 338.323 kph; 26.526 seconds; sixth-fastest overall today).

At 11:19 a.m., #8 BRACK logs the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 212.168 mph (341.451 kph; 26.283 seconds).

Also at 11:19 a.m., CART course observers report that the car of #7 PAPIS is running rough at speed on course. PAPIS subsequently shuts the car off and slowly enters Pit Lane.

At 11:20 a.m., 30 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is still #8 BRACK with a faster lap of 213.043 mph; 342.860 kph; 26.175 seconds; -fastest overall today), followed by #1 MONTOYA (211.235 mph; 339.950 kph; 26.399 seconds; second-fastest overall) and #11 FITTIPALDI (210.446 mph; 338.680 kph; 26.498 seconds; third-fastest overall today).

At 11:28 a.m., #8 BRACK ups the day's fastest lap to 213.549 mph (343.674 kph; 26.113 seconds) on his 28th lap of the session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:30 a.m. to end the Group Two session with the fastest Group Two driver still #8 BRACK with his earlier lap of 213.549 mph (343.674 kph; 26.113 seconds), followed by #1 MONTOYA (213.312 mph; 343.292 kph; 26.142 seconds) and #12X VASSER (212.718 mph; 342.346 kph; 26.215 seconds). The top three drivers from Group Two logged the top three speeds in this morning's combined times. There are 21 of 27 cars within one second of the fast lap set by BRACK in this morning's session. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 27 different cars to the track in this morning's sessions with secondary cars utilized by #12X VASSER, #7X PAPIS, #27X FRANCHITTI, #26X TRACY, #10X FONTANA, and #32X GIDLEY. CART drivers logged a total of 319 laps in this morning's sessions.

Della Penna Motorsports rookie driver NORBERTO FONTANA was airlifted to Dokkyo University Hospital in Mibu-Town, Tochigi for precautionary x-rays of his neck and a CAT Scan, according to Dr. Chris Pinderski of the CART Medical Team. Pinderski said that FONTANA briefly lost consciousness, but was awake and alert prior to the transport to Dokkyo. FONTANA will be unable to participate in Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 since CART does not permit any driver who has lost consciousness to compete in that weekend's event. Della Penna Motorsports has not announced any alternative or future plans at this time. An update on FONTANA's condition will be released once it is received from the medical staff at Dokkyo University Hospital.

MEDICAL UPDATE: Della Penna Motorsports rookie Norberto Fontana's CAT Scan of his head and neck at Dokkyo University Hospital were negative, according to Dr. Chris Pinderski of the CART Medical Team. The medical staff at Dokkyo University Hospital is scheduled to give Fontana a MRI of his neck later today. Pinderski said Fontana will be held overnight for observation as a precaution.

As the time approaches for the 1:15 p.m.-Green Flag for qualifying, the cloud cover has thickened considerably here at Twin Ring Motegi. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 114 degrees F. (41 C.) and an ambient temperature of 75 degrees F (22 degrees C.) at the start of the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:15 p.m. to start qualifying for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500! The drivers will have up to four times by the flagstand before taking the Green Flag for the first of two timed qualifying laps.

#19 KUROSAWA's best lap: 202.366 mph (325.674 kph; 27.556 seconds); first lap.

#34 MARQUES' best lap: 205.635 mph (330.938 kph; 27.118 seconds); second lap.

#10 FONTANA did not present a car for qualifying.

#25 GARCIA's best lap: 201.430 mph (324.170 kph; 27.684 seconds); second lap.

#26X TRACY's best lap: 206.671 mph (332.605 kph; 26.982 seconds); second lap.

#16 JOURDAIN's best lap: 207.186 mph (333.434 kph; 26.915 seconds); second lap.

#18 BLUNDELL's best lap: 203.429 mph (327.387 kph; 27.412 seconds); second lap.

#32 GIDLEY's best lap: 207.726 mph (334.303 kph; 26.845 seconds); second lap. GIDLEY's car struck a small bird as the driver entered Turn 1 on his second lap. CART safety workers quickly clear the track as the remainder of the qualifiers wait to make their laps.

#5 NAKANO's best lap: 208.604 mph (335.716 kph; 26.732 seconds); second lap.

#27 FRANCHITTI's best lap: 207.224 mph (333.495 kph; 26.910 seconds); second lap.

#96 SERVIA's best lap: 207.989 mph (334.726 kph; 26.811 seconds); second lap.

#3 CASTRO-NEVES' best lap: 207.826 mph (334.464 kph; 26.832 seconds); second lap.

#17 GUGELMIN's best lap: 209.379 mph (336.963 kph; 26.633 seconds); second lap.

#55 KANAAN's best lap: 209.112 mph (336.533 kph; 26.667 seconds); second lap.

#6 ANDRETTI's best lap: 209.191 mph (336.660 kph; 26.657 seconds); second lap.

#7X PAPIS' best lap: 208.300 mph (335.226 kph; 26.771 seconds); first lap.

#33 TAGLIANI's best lap: 208.737 mph (335.930 kph; 26.715 seconds); second lap.

#20 MORENO's best lap: 210.541 mph (338.833 kph; 26.486 seconds); second lap.

#2 de FERRAN's top speed: 210.335 mph (338.501 kph; 26.512 seconds); second lap.

#11 FITTIPALDI's top speed: 210.145 mph (338.196 kph; 26.536 seconds); second lap.

#97 da MATTA's top speed: 207.147 mph (333.371 kph; 26.920 seconds); second lap.

#40 FERNANDEZ's top speed: 207.826 mph (334.464 kph; 26.832 seconds); second lap.

#12 VASSER's top speed: 210.788 mph (339.230 kph; 26.455 seconds); second lap.

#1 MONTOYA's top speed: 212.540 mph (342.050 kph; 26.237 seconds); second lap.

#8 BRACK logs no speed at 2:37 p.m. as a large plume of smoke erupts out of the right, rear side of the car as BRACK takes the Green Flag. BRACK shuts down the engine and the car coasts to a stop on the backstraight. BRACK's crew readies the secondary car for use in the qualifying session as CART safety crews quickly clean up the frontstretch. If BRACK can present his secondary car for qualifying in the eight minutes left in the session and before the scheduled end of the Qualifying session, BRACK will be allowed the usual number of warm-up laps before taking the Green Flag, but the driver will only be allowed one qualifying lap to take his place on the grid. The driver will receive the Green and White Flags at the start of his flying lap.

At 2:42 p.m., #8X BRACK takes the GREEN and WHITE FLAGS to start his only qualifying lap. BRACK's top speed: 211.283 mph (340.027 kph; 26.393 seconds). BRACK takes second on the grid.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2:45 p.m. to end qualifying for the Firestone Firehawk 500 with JUAN MONTOYA winning the Pole! MONTOYA clocks a lap of 212.540 mph (340.050 kph; 26.237 seconds) in his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Lola to take his second pole of the 2000 season. This is MONTOYA's ninth pole of his career. The Colombian pilot has qualified on the front row in four out of the five events so far this season.

KENNY BRACK will start second in Saturday's race with his speed of 211.283 mph; 340.027 kph; 26.393-second lap in his Ford Reynard. This represents the Shell-sponsored driver's best start of the season; his previous best being a fourth place on the grid at Nazareth. BRACK has qualified among the top seven positions in all five events of the season.

JIMMY VASSER starts third in tomorrow's race by virtue of his 210.788; 339.230 kph; 26.455-second lap in his Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola.

The Starting Grid features 21 of 24 cars, fully 88 percent of the Starting Field, within one second of the Pole-winning speed of MONTOYA. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 24 different cars to the track in this afternoon's qualifying session with secondary cars utilized by #8X BRACK, #12X VASSER, #7X PAPIS, and #26X TRACY. A crowd of 15,000 Japanese Champ Car fans attended today's qualifying session, according to Twin Ring Motegi Super Speedway officials.

The Della-Penna Racing Team has officially withdrawn their car from tomorrow's Firestone Firehawk 500. The team driver, Argentine rookie NORBERTO FONTANA, was injured in a practice incident this morning.

Quotes from the top three qualifiers follow:

JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "I doubled my points! The car has been good since yesterday, but on my last morning, I couldn't get a good lap. The car was fine in qualifying; it's just that the headwind was killing everyone. I don't have any problems [with downshifting]. The car has been good all weekend and I'm looking forward to getting to my first pit stop."

KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "We kind of suspected that the engine was bad after this morning, but we crossed our fingers and hoped it would be all right. Obviously, it wasn't, but I cannot say enough for the team. To bring out the spare car and have it be close to the setup of the primary car was just fantastic. I think that all we were missing was a new set of tires."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Toyota Lola: "I was a little disappointed with the speed. We tried to trim the car out this morning but we were not able to get the downforce out and keep it balanced the way we wanted. So we had to put the downforce back in. I'm happy to be starting third. It's a 300-mile race, our longest other than the 500 milers, and I'm looking forward to it. I think we're looking strong for the race."

    -CART-
 

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi , Norberto Fontana
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing