CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi: Junqueira paces first practice day

Junqueira leads opening oval practice session of 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series at Twin Ring Motegi. MOTEGI, Japan (April 25, 2002) - Second-year pilot Bruno Junqueira ( ...

Junqueira leads opening oval practice session of 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series at Twin Ring Motegi.

MOTEGI, Japan (April 25, 2002) - Second-year pilot Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing posted a best lap of 25.983 seconds (214.479 mph/345.161 kph) around the 1.548-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval to head a field of 34 cars to turn laps on the opening day of practice for Saturday's Bridgestone Potenza 500.

Today's performance comes nearly a year removed from the last time Junqueira qualified on the pole position for a CART FedEx Championship Series event-which was also the Brazilian's first career Champ Car pole-at Nazareth Speedway in May of 2001. Junqueira has already qualified inside the top three once this season when he placed his car third on the starting grid for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach nearly three weeks ago.

Junqueira qualified fifth in his maiden visit to Twin Ring Motegi last year, but exited the event on the opening lap after getting involved in an incident with Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta. Junqueira has one career Champ Car victory to his credit, taking the checkered flag first in the 2001 Motorola 220 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Turning the second fastest lap in today's opening round of practice was Player's/Forsythe Racing competitor Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who turned in a best lap of 26.015 seconds (214.215 mph/344.736 kph). Carpentier comes into the weekend looking to score his first pole position since the race at The Milwaukee Mile in 1998, some 75 events ago.

The French Canadian is also looking to take his second career Champ Car win, and his first since winning at Michigan International Speedway last season. Carpentier's best start in three previous appearances at Twin Ring Motegi came last year when he qualified 10th, but he has yet to score championship points at the venue, as his best finishes in Japan are a pair of 19th place results in 1998 and last season.

Turning in the third fastest time of the day was Team KOOL Green driver Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone), who clocked a best lap of 26.020 seconds (214.174 mph/344.670 kph). Franchitti is no stranger to the top of the charts in Motegi, as he qualified second here last year and turned in a Twin Ring Motegi career best finish of second in 2000.

What is interesting to note, however, is that Franchitti posted the third fastest time of the day in a Reynard chassis-which he will be driving throughout the weekend-while his Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and technical partner Team Motorola and driver Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) turned the 11th- and eighth-fastest times of the day, respectively, in Lola chassis.

Also noteworthy is the fact that all three engine manufacturers and both chassis manufacturers were represented inside today's top three.

Turning in the fourth fastest lap of the day was current CART FedEx Championship Series points leader da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) with a best lap of 26.082 seconds (213.665 mph/343.850 kph). Rounding out the top five today was Mo Nunn Racing pilot Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) at 26.117 seconds (213.278 mph/343.390 kph), who stood third on the time sheets before Franchitti and da Matta went quicker inside of the final minute of practice.

All 20 drivers in the field turned laps within one second of each other, and there were no major incidents. Attendance for today's opening practice session at Twin Ring Motegi was up slightly from the previous year, as 8,200 race fans passed through the turnstiles. Last year, 8,000 fans turned out for the opening day of practice, and 72,000 fans were in attendance on race day. Race organizers are expecting an increase in race day attendance this weekend as well.

United States television coverage of today's activities will air on SPEED Channel at 11:00 a.m. ET on Thursday. SPEED Channel will also offer coverage of tomorrow's qualifying session at 2:00 p.m. ET on Friday, as well as CART Friday Night at 9:00 p.m. ET. Race day coverage of the Bridgestone Potenza 500 begins with a 30 minute pre-race show at 12:00 NOON ET on Saturday, and will be followed immediately by the fifth Bridgestone Potenza 500 at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Quotes from the top three drivers overall from today's practice sessions follow below:

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Out of the box the car was quick this morning. We adapted to changing conditions during the day. The car had a pretty good balance and the Bridgestone tires were pretty good as well. Today was pretty cold, and the conditions will probably change tomorrow with more rubber on the track - so we'll see what happens. You have to be fast in all the corners. Turns three and four are a bit more difficult. When things are going good you can do Turn one and two almost flat out. But you have to find a balance in the turns and it is difficult."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I'm very happy. We had to come in and change some gears on pit lane early on. I can run pretty good on the Bridgestone tires even though they have been used for a while. Overall, it's been a good start to the weekend for us. I think the engines are very similar, not only race to race, but season to season. Changes are made to the engines throughout the year, but they always end up being close. We'll see who has the fastest qualifying engine tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone): "This morning we started off working on the race setup. The track was clean and we're getting used to the different variables this season with the car. We worked on a race-long setup with the Honda engineers. We tried something we thought the other teams weren't doing toward the end of the session and went with a new set of tires. The track is definitely smoother between Turns 1 and 2. Now, even the brave guys will be able to run and pass on the outside on Saturday."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing