Saturday April 29, 2000, Rio de Janeiro: American driver Memo Gidley pulled a sneak attack on the field in Rio today, qualifying 11th after running way back in 22nd position in the morning practice. Gidley added drama to the early minutes of his...
Saturday April 29, 2000, Rio de Janeiro: American driver Memo Gidley pulled a sneak attack on the field in Rio today, qualifying 11th after running way back in 22nd position in the morning practice. Gidley added drama to the early minutes of his first oval qualifying session, throwing down a hot lap of 38.246 seconds and holding provisional pole through the first nine qualifiers.
Gidley's day began with a difficult morning practice, as he struggled to explore the many setup variables in his first-ever Champcar seat-time on an oval. Meanwhile, his Players teammate Alex Tagliani ran the fastest lap in the morning practice, proving that the Players team had a good handle on the Ford-Reynard-Firestone. In the break after practice, the team applied much of Tagliani's setup to Gidley's #32 car, so Gidley rolled off pit lane for qualifying in an unfamiliar yet promising setup.
Exploring the limits of his new setup during his warm-up laps, Gidley clocked a 38.246 in his first qualifying lap and was hungry for more. "It was a bittersweet qualifying session for me, " Gidley confessed. "My first qualifying lap was good and I improved over my best and I was very happy. I was running two tenths ahead on my second lap, and came in pretty hot off the end of the back straight. I was aggressive on the final turn-in, trying to pick up the power a little sooner, and washed a bit wide on the front end. I tried to recover and I got sideways on the rear. I think I would have qualified top 5 if I hadn't made that mistake and lost that second qualifying lap."
"I was very nervous sitting there watching as the leaders qualified," Gidley continued. "My time held up pretty well, but I knew I could have done a lot better with the car I had today. So it was a learning experience, my first time around this sort of oval."
Asked about his preparation for tomorrow's race, Gidley explained "there would be preparation to do if I knew what to prepare for, but this is my first champcar race on an oval. Actually, I think I'm going to go over some of the scenarios for pit strategy and fuel consumption that the Players team has learned in oval races. I'll also be thinking about where I can pass people. It's tricky, you can get a pretty good draft behind someone down the straightaways, but you lose a lot behind somebody in the turns because their turbulence reduces your front-end downforce. So it may take traffic or capitalizing on another person's mistake to pass tomorrow."
Acknowledging a thumb's up from fellow driver Paul Tracy, Gidley spoke about getting to know his CART competitors on a personal level. "Paul's cool. He's just a normal guy and he's into go-karting and supporting karters. I haven't really spent much time yet with any of the CART drivers, but Paul and I hung out in the airport a bit after the SKUSA North American Championship last November. There are a lot of nice guys out there and I enjoy people with Paul's kind of attitude."
Excited about his big day tomorrow, Gidley sighed: "Oh man, I'm just burning up to win one."