CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Mercedes Friday Report

Friday, Practice Session ...

Friday, Practice Session #2

Player's Drivers Lead Mercedes-Benz Through Challenging First Day in Rio Rain and Yellows Limit Track Time, Surface Conditions Difficult

Player's Forsythe Racing drivers Patrick Carpentier and Greg Moore paced the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport contingent through a difficult first day of practice for Sunday's Rio 400 at Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rain limited this morning's first practice session to only a few minutes of running time, and the effects of the storm continued to be felt during the crash-filled afternoon session as drivers struggled for grip on a very dirty and very "green" track.

Carpentier, who earned the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career two weeks ago at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway, was ninth fastest in the session with a quick lap of 40.260 seconds (166.677 mph). Moore, .021 seconds slower, was 10th. Michael Andretti topped the time sheets with a lap of 39.553 seconds.

Rookie Helio Castro-Neves, making his first appearance in his home country as a Champ Car competitor, was 12th in the Team Alumax/Bettenhausen Motorsports Reynard/Mercedes. PacWest Racing pilots Mark Blundell (Motorola Reynard/Mercedes) and Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes) were 13th and 15th, respectively.

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Al Unser Jr. and Andre Ribeiro were 18th and 21st. Ribeiro crashed at one point during session but emerged unscathed. Hogan Racing's JJ Lehto was 19th.

A third practice session is scheduled for tomorrow morning, with qualifying to follow in the afternoon. Sunday's 133-lap, 248-mile race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. local time. ABC's tape-delay telecast begins at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Mercedes Quotes

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Ninth - 40.260 sec.

"This is like driving on a dirt track. My fast lap, I was sideways all the way through turn one, but at least it was a predictable slide, so it wasn't too bad. It seems like 90 percent of the people are struggling with the rear of the car. That's why there were so many spins and crashes.

We made our car better, and I'm pretty happy because we're usually not that fast on the first day. Going into the corners, I think we're one of the fastest, but we lose ‘side-bite' at mid-corner. Once we get that fixed, I'm sure we'll be quick."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 10th - 40.281 sec.

"We got a little bit done on gearing and setup, but it was really tough with all the yellows. It was a really poor performance on everybody's part, all the way up and down pit lane. I've never seen a session like that. The track is really green, but still... I kept drag racing with Gil (de Ferran) to get out of pit lane first, but we were still getting caught up in traffic so much. We have the last spot on pit lane before pit-out, which is usually an advantage, but every time we got out first, we'd catch the tail end of the guys leaving pit lane, so we never could get a clear lap."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16, Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear - 12th - 40.399 sec.

"We didn't have a very good chance to run quick. I really pushed hard and took a lot of chances in turn four. This is a tough track because you have a lot of speed on the straights and a lot of braking force going into the corners. It's tough to get consistency here. On the two big straights the tires cool down. That's why everyone is spinning: they can't keep the tires warm. When the sun is out, it's less of a problem, but when it cools down, there is no grip."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 13th - 40.469 sec.

"Obviously, I've got the same complaints that everyone else has. The track is bumpy, there is a lot of grit; it's atrocious. Still, we had a fairly constructive session. I used the same set of tires the entire session. We're happy with the rest of the car. We weren't pulling top rpm in top gear, so we've still got more there."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 15th - 40.507 sec.

"The circuit conditions are impossible. It's hard to know if we should chase the car's setup or not because the circuit will get better (as the weekend goes on). The tire temperatures are a big problem. I've got sand in my ears, sand in my mouth. I feel like I'm at Ipanema Beach, not at the race track."

JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 19th - 40.882 sec.

"It's been really hard for everyone today. With this morning being rained out and then all of the yellow laps this afternoon, you really can't get a good feel for the car. This is my first time here and only my fourth oval in my career. We need to get on it tomorrow and catch up with the time we lost today."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske