Franchitti Breaks Own Track Record The Team KOOL Green driver scrambles to the top as the weather finally cooperates for the wild cars of CART. By Marc Sproule, CART.com Editor RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Just when it seemed like Mother ...
Franchitti Breaks Own Track Record The Team KOOL Green driver scrambles to the top as the weather finally cooperates for the wild cars of CART. By Marc Sproule, CART.com Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Just when it seemed like Mother Nature was never going to cooperate, the rain finally stopped in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Champ Cars had their 90-minute practice session. After waiting for two hours for the track to dry, the first sun of the weekend shone, the green flag waved, and there was a seriously mad scramble to get on the track. Ninety minutes, later Dario Franchitti scrambled the fastest and topped the time sheets with an unofficial track record of 38.934 seconds.
Not even breaking a sweat in the tropical heat and humidity, Franchitti calmly watched the last six minutes of the session in front of the timing monitors in his pits. In the first 15 laps, he made one major change. He started with a tear-off strip on the visor of his helmet and jettisoned that almost immediately. A few laps later, he was in the pits for the new visor as the grit from the track surface was sucked up by and blasted onto the cars as they ran down the front straightaway at over 200 mph.
"We're ready to race," was one of the first things he said as he talked to reporters after the session ended. "The track improved a little bit as the session went on. There are a few more bumps this year though. The braking zones are a little bumpier."
Had he made many changes to the car during the session? "A little aero and a little mechanical. We have a better race balance than qualifying balance."
His teammate Paul Tracy didn't fare as well. He tangled with Robby Gordon going into Turn 4 with less than 10 minutes left in the session. Tracy came out the big loser -- his car was destroyed. One version of the accident was Gordon had motor problems, braked early, and Tracy walloped him. Gordon's car lost a wing, but would be ready for qualifying in the afternoon, despite a fire at the back of the car after he came to rest.
A few micro-tics behind Franchitti, Christian Fittipaldi showed that the force is with him in front of his home crowd. Teammate Michael Andretti was sidelined with overheating problems.
Juan Montoya continued his rapid ways as he set the third fastest time, a little over a tenth slower than Fittipaldi. Gil de Ferran showed his hand at the last minute and turned the fourth quickest time. Cristiano da Matta proved he and his Toyota-powered mount are the real deal. He was the fifth quickest in the session. And another hometown favorite, Tony Kanaan was five thousandth of a second behind in sixth. With just one second separating the top 20 cars, it looks like it is going to be a great weekend.
As soon as the session ended, the teams made the mad dash back to the garages to get the cars ready for qualifying. There would be barely enough time to give them a thorough going-over before they had to line up to qualify.
The hurry up and wait of yesterday had just turned into hurry up and go.