Nazareth Testing Roger Penske's .946-mile oval in Nazareth, Pa., was a very busy place the last few days. Most of the teams made an appearance, even though the cars will shortly head to Twin Ring Motegi. This is the first time...
Nazareth Testing Roger Penske's .946-mile oval in Nazareth, Pa., was a very busy place the last few days. Most of the teams made an appearance, even though the cars will shortly head to Twin Ring Motegi.
This is the first time that testing had taken place at a short oval on this season's schedule. This was noteworthy because it was the first time for new short oval regulations to be put to the test. The new regulations mandate that speedway wings be used in order to cut down on the speeds and it seems to have worked. Reported times were roughly 1.5 to more than 2 seconds slower than last year's pole time. Unfortunately the weather was not the same for everybody and so comparisons are not reliable. Some of the teams faced temperatures in the low 40s as the testing began. Those that ran at the end of the test found the weather to be more spring-like.
For three of the drivers and their teams it was also a rather trying time. Paul Tracy, Tarso Marques and Gil de Ferran all had wall-banging incidents, albeit with minor damage to the cars and none to the drivers. It was impossible to get time reports on all the drivers, but Mauricio Gugelmin's PacWest Hollywood Reynard was the fastest of those that we did get. His best was a 20.08 second lap, a little more than 1.5 seconds slower than last year's pole time of 18.419 seconds, set by Patrick Carpentier.
Gugelmin said, "I'm happy with the results of the test. The important thing is that we learned a great deal about the car. We were able to run a 30 lap stint today (29 March) and the car had a pretty decent balance."
He did have a comment about what the car felt like with the lesser downforce generated by the speedway wings. "It's almost like driving a bicycle at 200 mph, but it's the same for everyone. We know what to expect and can work from here."
The second fastest time reported was turned by Alex Barron in the new Gurney Eagle, a mere .09 seconds slower than Gugelmin. This should be a bit of a morale booster for the team that is dealing with a brand new car and still has no major sponsorship signage.
Next in a group at the same time of 20.20 seconds were Tarso Marques in Al Unser Jr.'s Marlboro Penske, Adrian Fernandez's Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Reynard, Juan Montoya in the Target/Chip Ganassi Reynard, and Gil de Ferran in the Walker Racing Valvoline Cummins Reynard.
Marques' run was remarkable because it was his first in the Penske on an oval. This will certainly lead to more speculation that he will be Unser's replacement at Motegi, although one source claiming to be knowledgeable said it will be Jason Leffler, who still has no experience in Champ Cars.
Player's Forsythe teammates Patrick Carpentier and Greg Moore were the next quickest at 20.3 and 20.5 respectively in their Reynards. Cristiano da Matta was next with a 20.6 in his MCI/WorldCom Arciero-Wells Swift. Dario Franchitti's Team KOOL Green Reynard and Tony Kanaan's McDonald's Forsythe Reynard were tied at 20.7. Franchitti's teammate Paul Tracy was the last driver reported to be in the 20 second bracket at 20.9.
Tracy was also vocal about the new rules. "I'm not a big fan of the new wing configuration. I was doing 80 mph, maximum when I crashed. There's no grip, no security and the window of controllability is virtually nothing." Don't forget that this man ran many thousands of miles of testing at this track when he was driving for Penske.
Scott Pruett (Pioneer Arciero-Wells Swift), Tarso Marques (in a weekend run in a Payton Coyne Lola), Dennis Vitolo (Nicorette Payton Coyne Lola) and Michel Jourdain, Jr. (Herdez Payton Coyne Lola) were the final ones reported on. They were all in the 21 second bracket.
Source: CART Online