CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland Friday report

By David Reininger - motorsport.com Portland, Oregon (June 22, 2001) - Helio Castroneves recorded the fastest lap in testing for Sunday's Freightliner G.I. Joes 200 at Portland International Raceway. Castroneves recorded the fastest lap of the...

By David Reininger - motorsport.com

Portland, Oregon (June 22, 2001) - Helio Castroneves recorded the fastest lap in testing for Sunday's Freightliner G.I. Joes 200 at Portland International Raceway.

Castroneves recorded the fastest lap of the day during the afternoon session, averaging 121.547 (58.318) around the 1.969-mile road circuit in his Team Penske Honda-powered Marlboro car.

"It's a great course," said Castroneves. "Since 1999, I've started on the front row here. But today was up and down. We started the day having a lot of trouble with the (pop-off) valve. We're pretty upset; we're down about five mph on the straightaway. We have to work really hard to make sure our cars go fast in the turns.

"In the afternoon, my car was handling well. We tried a lot of stuff and it looks like we found a good way for going faster leaving the corner."

Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the Toyota-powered Kmart car, was second fastest on the day, recording a lap at 121.103 mph (58.532). "We were reasonably happy this morning, and then this afternoon we kept on trying a bunch of stuff. Suddenly right at the very end, we got it going and I was a lot happier," said Fittipaldi, who also set his best lap during the afternoon session.

In last year's race at Portland, Fittipaldi started sixth and finished third. "Obviously I would like to start first," said Fittipaldi, "but if we can start in the top-four, or top-six, I honestly do think we have a shot of winning the race."

Mauricio Gugelmin's last lap of the day averaged 121.080 mph (58.543), placing the driver of the Nextel car third on the day's speed charts. "I really enjoy driving here and I'm very happy with the setup and balance of my car. We put on sticker tires late in the session and avoided the traffic to put in a flying lap. I practically flew through the chicane and I knew my time would be competitive.

"To be honest, we've been in the top-ten pretty much all day, and this is the result that comes out of having a great race car. This is definitely the best car I've had all year and I anticipate the same results for qualifying tomorrow."

Due to the ban on in-season testing, the first day of every race weekend is officially known as a test day. Despite being a test day, Guglemin said, "We are all trying to go as fast, and learn as much as we can when we are out there, regardless if it is a test day or a free day."

Kenny Brack, fourth fastest on the day, was unable to improve upon his best from the morning session, where he recorded a lap at 120.950 mph (58.606). "We have been pretty fast today," said Brack. "First in the first session. That feels good after we struggled in Detroit."

Brack, now in his sophomore year in the FedEx Series, leads the championship points standings (74-69) over Castroneves. "I feel comfortable with the car this year," said Brack, who has scored two victories this season. "Coming in last year as a rookie was a little tougher. We don't have to learn the track on the first day. Now we know what to expect."

Fifth fastest on the day was Cristiano da Matta, driver of the Texaco Havoline car, and teammate to Fittipaldi.

Shinji Nakano bettered his morning time by .849 of a second to place sixth fastest on the day, averaging 120.664 mph (58.745) around the 12-turn natural terrain circuit. "I had a difficult time this morning," said Nakano. "I had understeer, oversteer and everything. Towards the end of the morning session, we found a better setup. We continued to look for more this morning and finally we found it. It's still not fast enough, but it is a good starting point for tomorrow."

Michel Jourdain was seventh, followed by Castroneves' teammate Gil de Ferran, who struggled for most of the day. "We've always been competitive here at Portland," said de Ferran. "But under the current circumstances, we are clearly struggling. I was trying to set the car up neutral, but, being down on power, I had no choice but to drive as hard as I could.

"So, today we struggled with lots of oversteer, and that's why I spun the car three times during the afternoon practice session. We'll make some adjustments tonight and hopefully the Marlboro car will be in good shape for tomorrow's qualifying."

Qualifying for the CART FedEx Series gets underway at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Sunday's race takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. local time.

Notes:

The official lap distance of Portland International Raceway is measured at 1.969 miles. The scheduled race distance is 98 laps.

Memo Gidley replaces Nicolas Minassian in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing No. 12 on a race-by-race basis starting with this weekend's event in Portland. Gidley's last CART event was the 2000 season finale at Fontana. Gidley failed in his attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Memo Gidley , Nicolas Minassian , Christian Fittipaldi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing