CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Thursday Track notes

Today's weather here at Motegi, Japan this morning has a mountain fog lifting to exhibit bright blue skies. Though a threat of rain as been promised for later today in the region, this morning features perfect springtime conditions; very little...

Today's weather here at Motegi, Japan this morning has a mountain fog lifting to exhibit bright blue skies. Though a threat of rain as been promised for later today in the region, this morning features perfect springtime conditions; very little breeze and cool temperatures in the 60's.

SHINJI NAKANO takes over the controls of the #5 Walker Racing Avex Honda Reynard, coming back to the Series after missing the three events due to injuries sustained in a testing incident in Milwaukee in March.

MEMO GIDLEY will again pilot the Players #32 entry, filling in for PATRICK CARPENTIER, who is still recovering from a broken wrist sustained in a fall in his home.

TARSO MARQUES will drive the second Dale Coyne Ford Swift #34, starting his first race of the 2000 season.

Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports Director Al Speyer sums up the Twin Ring Motegi oval as a "home away from home" for the Firestone Racing program. "Everyone with the Firestone Racing program is delighted to be back at Twin Ring Motegi," Speyer said. "The loyal support of the Japanese race fans, particularly the hundreds of Bridgestone Corp. employees who attend the event, always makes us quite proud and spurs us to work harder to put on a sensational show. We also take great pride in having won the two previous CART events here when we faced another tire manufacturer. Our task this year, involving technical centers in Akron, Ohio and Tokyo, has been to develop even more durable and consistent tires than we've provided in the past. Our global engineering team has made remarkable accomplishments in these areas, winning much praise from CART drivers and team owners. The drivers are familiar with the Firehawks that they will be using this weekend because they are the same specification as those used in the season opener at Homestead." Firestone has brought 800 tires to Japan for this weekend's race, eight sets per car, all with a 0.36" stagger.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 88 degrees F. ( 28 C.) and an ambient temperature of 68 degrees F. ( 18 C.) at the start of the session.

At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 203.155 mph (326.946 km; 27.449 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (203.066 mph; 326.803 km; 27.461 seconds) and #97 da MATTA (202.601 mph; 326.055 km; 27.524 seconds).

At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is still #6 ANDRETTI with a faster lap of 206.878 mph (332.938 km; 26.955 seconds), followed by #17 GUGLEMIN (205.000; 329.915 km; 27.202 seconds) aand #2 de FERRAN (204.781 mph; 329.563 km; 27.231 seconds).

At 10:58 a.m., #2 de FERRAN clocks the fastest lap of the session on his 20th lap with a speed of 207.132 mph (333.347 km; 26.922 seconds).

At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is still #2 de FERRAN with his earlier lap of 207.132 mph (333.347 km; 26.922 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (206.970 mph; 333.086 km; 26.943 seconds) and #6 ANDRETTI (206.878 mph; 332.938 km; 26.955 seconds.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:07 a.m. after CART course observers report fluid on the track in Turn 1. CART safety workers quickly clean up the area and return to their safety stations.

At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the Group One session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is now #6 ANDRETTI with a lap 208.044 mph (334.814 km; 26.804 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (207.479 mph 333.905 km; 26.877) and #2 de FERRAN (207.132; 333.347 km; 26.922 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:11 a.m. to resume the Group One session.

At 11:14 a.m., #97 da MATTA logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 208.106 mph (334.914 km; 26.796 seconds) on his 26th lap of the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:30 a.m. to start the Group Two session. A heavy cloud cover has moved over the track at this time of the session, cooling the track and the ambient temperatures.

At 11:38 a.m., #11 FITTIPALDI logs the fastest lap of the Group Two session and of the day so far with a speed of 208.176 mph (335.027 km; 26.787 seconds) on just his fourth lap of practice.

At 11:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is #11 FITTIPALDI with his earlier lap of 208.176 mph (335.027 km; 26.787 seconds), followed by #55 KANAAN (208.098 mph; 334.901 km; 26.797 seconds; third-fastest overall) and #8 BRACK (206.396 mph; 332.162 km; 27.018 seconds; ninth overall).

At 11:43 a.m., #1X MONTOYA logs the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 208.230 mph (335.114 km; 26.780 seconds) on his sixth lap of the session.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:44 a.m. after #26 TRACY dramatically slows down the front stretch and stalls at the bottom of Turn 1. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up and tow it to the Pit Area.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:48 a.m. to #12 VASSER for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit Out at 11:43 a.m. VASSER subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 11:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is now #55 KANAAN with a lap of 209.726 mph (337.521 km; 26.589 seconds; first-overall), followed by #1X MONTOYA (208.230 mph; 335.114 km; 26.780 seconds; second-overall) and #11 FITTIPALDI (208.176 mph 335.026 km; 26.787 seconds; third-fastest overall).

At 11:58 a.m., #1X MONTOYA logs the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 210.502 mph (338.770 km; 26.491 seconds) on his 14th lap.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 12 p.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 11:58 a.m. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

Also at 12 p.m., 30 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is still #1X MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 210.502 mph (338.770 km; 26.491 seconds; first overall), followed by #55 KANAAN (209.726 mph; 337.521 km; 26.589 seconds; second-fastest overall) and #8 BRACK (209.316 mph; 336.861 km; third-fastest overall).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 12:06 p.m. for a track inspection after the crew of #20 MORENO reports that the car is missing a wicker (wing piece) after inspection in the driver's Pit Box. CART safety workers quickly scan the track for debris and find the piece.

At 12:10 p.m., 40 minutes into the Group Two practice session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 12 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12:11 p.m. to resume the Group One session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12:15 p.m. to end the Group Two practice session with the fastest driver now #8 BRACK with a lap of 211.123 mph (339.770 km; 26.413 seconds), followed by #1X MONTOYA (210.637 mph; 338.987 km; 26.474 seconds) and #55 KANAAN (210.296 mph; 338.439 km; 26.517 seconds). Six of the Group Two drivers surpassed the fastest Group One driver, #97 da MATTA. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 28 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #1X MONTOYA, #26X TRACY, #16X JOURDAIN Jr., #33X TAGLIANI, and #40X FERNANDEZ. CART drivers logged a total of 706 incident-free laps during the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the afternoon full-field session. The cloud cover has increased during the lunch period as a breeze is now blowing from over the first turn mountains.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:36 p.m. after CART course observers report debris on the back straight. CART safety workers quickly clean the track and return to the safety stations.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:38 p.m. to resume the session.

At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #8 BRACK with a lap of 209.277 mph (336.799; 26.646 seconds), followed by #33 TAGLIANI (207.363 mph; 333.718 kph; 26.892 seconds) and #7X PAPIS (207.216 mph; 333.482 kph; 26.911 seconds).

At 2:42 p.m., #11 FITTIPALDI logs the fastest lap of the session with a lap of 209.907 mph (337.813 kph; 26.566 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:46 p.m. after #10 FONTANA has a mechanical problem as the car crosses the Start/Finish line. FONTANA pulls low on course and finally stalls on the backstretch. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up and tow it back to the Pit Box.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:49 p.m. to resume the session.

At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with his earlier lap of 209.907 mph (337.813 kph; 26.566 seconds), followed by #33 TAGLIANI (209.671 mph; 337.433 kph; 26.596 seconds) and #55 KANAAN (209.324 mph; 336.874 kph; 26.640 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:58 p.m. after #1 MONTOYA has a large plume of smoke erupt from the rear of the car as he crosses the Start/Finish line. MONTOYA slows and pulls low on course and finally enters Pit Road with the engine still running. CART safety workers quickly attend to clean-up efforts on the track while MONTOYA's crew readies the secondary car for use in the remainder of the session.

At 3 p.m., 30 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with his earlier lap of 209.907 (337.813 kph, 26.566 seconds), followed by #1 MONTOYA (209.734 mph; 337.534 kph; 26.588 seconds) and #33 TAGLIANI (209.671 mph; 337.433 kph; 26.596 seconds).

At 3:10 p.m., 40 minutes into the session and still under the Yellow Flag clean-up efforts, the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:16 p.m. to resume the session.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 3:19 p.m. to allow CART safety workers time to make additional clean-up efforts.

At 3:20 p.m., 50 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 3:10 p.m. report.

At 3:30 p.m., 60 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 3:20 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:34 p.m. to resume the session.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 3:36 p.m. after #55 KANAAN's car begins to show smoke at speed on course. KANAAN brings the car onto Pit Road as CART safety workers begin clean-up efforts.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:38 p.m. to resume the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 3:39 p.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 3:40 p.m., 70 minutes into the session the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 3:30 p.m. report.

At 3:43 p.m., #40 FERNANDEZ slows on course and pulls low on course, finally pitting the car without power.

At 3:47 p.m., #12 VASSER logs the fastest lap of the session and the day with a speed of 211.628 mph (340.582 kph; 26.154 seconds) on his 10th lap of the session.

At 3:50 p.m., 80 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #12 VASSER with a faster lap of 213.214 mph (343.135 kph; 26.154 seconds), followed by #8 BRACK (211.179 mph; 339.860 kph; 26.154 seconds), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (209.907 mph; 337.813 kph; 26.566 seconds).

At 3:55 p.m., #12 VASSER runs a quicker lap of 213.328 mph (343.318 kph; 26.140 seconds) on his 19th lap.

At 3:57 p.m., #8 BRACK takes over the top speed of the day with a lap of 213.361 mph (343.371 kph; 26.136 seconds).

At 3:58 p.m., #8 BRACK ups his top speed to 213.885 mph (344.215 kph; 26.072 seconds).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 4 p.m. to end the session with #8 KENNY BRACK the fastest driver of the session and the day with a lap of 213.885 mph (344.215 kph; 26.072 seconds), followed by #1 MONTOYA (213.721 mph; 343.951 kph; 26.092 seconds) and #12X VASSER (213.328 mph; 343.318 kph; 26.140 seconds). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 29 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #12X VASSER, #33X TAGLIANI, #7X PAPIS, #26X TRACY, #10X FONTANA, and #1X MONTOYA. The drivers logged a total of 983 incident-free laps during this afternoon's session.

KENNY BRACK has his Shell-sponsored Ford Reynard on top of the speedboard with his lap of 213.885 mph (344.215 kph; 26.072 seconds).

JUAN MONTOYA sits second in his Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola after the first day of practice with his lap of 213.721 mph (343.951 kph; 26.092 seconds).

JIMMY VASSER is third after the day's sessions in his end with Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola by virtue of his lap of 213.328 mph (343.318 kph; 26.140 seconds).

There are 24 cars out of the 33 that took to the track today within one second of the fast lap set by BRACK.

Quotes from the top three fastest drivers follow:

KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "It's a fantastic facility, and the track is fun, too. We're working away at it, trying to go faster and faster, and trying to have a good day tomorrow, too. It's the first day of practice and things change over the weekend. The most important thing is to be on top during the last lap of the weekend, but if there's a list. It's good to be on top."

JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "I think everything started pretty well. This afternoon we had a problem with the oil seal; I couldn't even hold it flat through [Turns] 1 and 2. So we pulled it in and went back to working on the other car. I was only able to run for four minutes and I went 26.3, 26.1 and 26.0, so that's pretty good. It was a long day, but it was good. It was the first time all year we've had a problem in practice. So, hopefully, we get it out of the way before the race."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Toyota Lola: "Things are going pretty good. We had a problem this afternoon, and we didn't really get started until the last green [flag period]. Toyota's been doing a lot of work, every time out it gets a little better and a little better, so hat's off to them. The chassis is working well and I think we're in good position for the weekend. We've got a lot of friends at Honda, no question about it. But as much as we like them, we're gonna work really hard to disappoint them as much we can this weekend."

SHINJI NAKANO, Avex Honda Reynard: It was my first time back in the car other than a brief test yesterday. The car was much better this afternoon than this morning. There's still a lot of setup work to do. I feel we reached 80 percent of our potential, but we had to scrub some tires because it may rain tomorrow. My neck is just a little sore because I'm out of practice."

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi , Dale Coyne