CHAMPCAR/CART: Naoki Hattori Firebird Test

Naoki Hattori Completes First Test at Firebird (November 26, 1998) -- Naoki Hattori made his Walker Racing debut at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Arizona on November 17-18. The Honda engine test at Firebird was the first of ...

Naoki Hattori Completes First Test at Firebird

(November 26, 1998) -- Naoki Hattori made his Walker Racing debut at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Arizona on November 17-18. The Honda engine test at Firebird was the first of several test sessions scheduled for Hattori, who will pilot a second champ car for Derrick Walker's team in the 1999 CART season.

Driving a '98 Reynard-Honda on Goodyear tires, Hattori logged nearly 400 miles in total for the two-day session and recorded a best lap time around the 1.21 mile road circuit of 44.3 seconds. In comparison, Gil de Ferran, driver of Walker's Valvoline/Cummins entry, tested at Firebird in August and had a best lap of 43.6 seconds. It was Hattori's first experience driving a champ car at Firebird.

"Naoki did very well for his first real test in a Champ car," said owner Walker. " We were very pleased by his approach to the test...he was very focused and worked on improving his lap times. There is a lot to learn and take in when you make this big of a step from Indy Lights. We were very impressed. The plan is to have Naoki reach 3,000 miles of testing before the first event in Homestead in Miami on March 21, 1999."

"Before I drove a champ car, I was a bit nervous because it's much different than Indy Lights -- more power, bigger engine, different tires -- basically, everything is different," commented Hattori. "However, after I started driving, everything felt very comfortable. Control and speed is much more difficult than in a Lights car, but I (proved to myself that I) can do it. I tested different car setups and was able to find my favorite settings. Of course, I have to test more, but we made good progress. Everyone on the team is very professional. I am very excited about the start of the season."

Walker Racing's next test session for Naoki Hattori is scheduled for December 2-4 at Laguna Seca Raceway. Gil de Ferran, Hattori's 1999 teammate, will also be at Laguna Seca to test for Honda and Goodyear.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Naoki Hattori