CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland Shigeaki Hattori Qualifying

Budweiser/GI Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco Havoline - Round ...

Budweiser/GI Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco Havoline - Round #8 Portland International Raceway, Oregon Shigeaki Hattori - #16 Mercedes-Benz/Reynard/Goodyear

Qualifying: 1 minute, 2.129 seconds 114.09 mph average 28th grid position

EPSON Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie driver Shigeaki Hattori qualified for tomorrow's CART FedEx Championship event, the first of the season on a permanent road course, after beating ever-mounting odds. Shigeaki began the weekend having never tested on a permanent road course in a Champ Car. Then, Friday's practice and provisional qualifying sessions were marred by intermittent rain showers, hindering his opportunities to learn the skills required for this challenging circuit. In what seemed at the time to be a final blow, the team suffered an uncharacteristic engine problem in Saturday morning practice, which caused them to miss virtually the entire session.

But proving that persistence is often the key to success in this highly competitive series, the team installed a new engine prior to this afternoon's final qualifying and sent Shigeaki out for a make-or-break run. Their hard work paid off when Shigeaki earned the Budweiser Accelerator Award for the greatest improvement in qualifying time from yesterday's provisional session (1 minute 15.811 seconds) to today's final session. The $1000 award was presented to Shigeaki at the close of qualifying and will be donated to CARA Charities. The twelve-pack of Budweiser that came with the award went to the happy team members.

Vince Kremer - Chief Mechanic The crew did an engine change in about 1 hour and 20 minutes (normally a 2-3 hour job) with not a complaint or a whimper - as usual. Any time you have an undiagnosed problem in a time-limited situation, the pressure is really on. We changed the electronics and a few other things - actually, the engine was the last thing we looked at. But when it was finished we felt confident that we had given Shige a car that would get him in the race. We didn't have time to do our normal checks; we just went for it. I'm proud of my guys; they deserve a big pat on the back. And we felt great that Shige had the faith in us to go out and put his foot into it immediately. We feel like we're really building great camaraderie between the team and the driver and it showed today.

Shigeaki Hattori I had to start over today - everything I learned yesterday in the rain about braking and shifting points changed in today's dry conditions. It's too bad that we had to miss this morning's session but the guys worked really hard to get the car ready for me. We'll make some more changes before tomorrow's race - I'm hoping to be able to improve even more. y

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Shigeaki Hattori