CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Mercedes qualifying notes

Kanaan To Start Ninth for Mercedes-Benz in Brazil Brazilian native Tony Kanaan earned the ninth-place starting position today during qualifying for the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rookie Alexandre ...

Kanaan To Start Ninth for Mercedes-Benz in Brazil

Brazilian native Tony Kanaan earned the ninth-place starting position today during qualifying for the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rookie Alexandre Tagliani earned the pole, the first of his career, with a lap of 38.587 seconds (173.903 mph).

Kanaan and team owner Morris Nunn focused on getting as much speed as possible on the straights, sacrificing stability in the corners on the Hollywood Mercedes-Benz.

"Qualifying was reasonable," said Kanaan, whose qualifying lap was 39.101 seconds (171.617 mph). "It's been a tough weekend deciding which aero package to run for qualifying. We wanted to increase speed on the straights and we did it. The low downforce we ran gave me a lighter car around the corners. We'll probably add some front and rear wing for the race to make the car a little more stable.

"Mercedes is doing a good job all the time on improving the engine, and it's only going to get better. I'm happy to work with professionals such as my guys and Mercedes. Morris is very smart. I trust him all the time."

Mauricio Gugelmin, also a native Brazilian, qualified his PacWest Racing/Nextel/Mercedes-Benz 21st with a lap of 39.682 seconds (169.104 mph). He experienced handling problems throughout the weekend including qualifying.

"There was too much push in the middle of the corners," said Gugelmin. "We were losing time on the entrance to the corner and on the exit. Here, it is all about how soon you can get onto the gas (in the corners) to get good straight-line speed. I'm not able to get on the gas soon enough."

Mexico's Michel Jourdain Jr., piloted the Bettenhausen Motorsports/Herdez/ Mercedes-Benz to 22nd in the field with a 39.856-second qualifying lap (168.336 mph).

"We lost a little bit of speed on the straightaway in comparison to this morning's session, and we gained some in the turns," said Jourdain. "We have the least amount of downforce possible and the car developed oversteer exiting the turns."

Mark Blundell, Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate who drives the Motorola Mercedes-Benz, qualified 23rd with a lap of 40.073 seconds (167.454 mph). He also experienced similar handling problems as Gugelmin.

"I've got so much understeer in the car.  It's so frustrating," said 
Blundell, who hails from Britain.  "When I come off the exit of the corners I 
go loose.  It's a huge disappointment."

Arciero Project Racing driver Luiz Garcia Jr., who is also a native of Brazil, will start his Hollywood Mercedes-Benz 25th. His qualifying time was disallowed because the car was underweight during the post-qualifying technical inspection.

"Unfortunately, we've had a lot of bad luck," said Garcia. "We haven't had enough time on track to work on the car. The car has a lot of potential. We're going to improve the car for tomorrow and find good balance for the race. By midseason we'll be in much better shape."

The green flag will fly for the Rio 200 at 1:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. Eastern), and the race can be seen live on ESPN.

<pre> Qualifying, Rio 200 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 29, 2000

Pos.    Driver               Engine              Time    Speed
1       Alexandre Tagliani   Ford                38.587  173.903
2       Juan Montoya         Toyota              38.696  173.413
3       Paul Tracy           Honda               38.843  172.757
4       Kenny Brack          Ford                38.876  172.610
5       Christian Fittipaldi Ford                38.879  172.597
6       Jimmy Vasser         Toyota              38.943  172.313
7       Helio Castro-Neves   Honda               38.985  172.128
8       Dario Franchitti     Honda               39.026  171.947
9       Tony Kanaan          Mercedes-Benz       39.101  171.617
10      Max Papis            Ford                39.227  171.066
21      Mauricio Gugelmin    Mercedes-Benz       39.682  169.104
22      Michel Jourdain Jr.  Mercedes-Benz       39.856  168.366
23      Mark Blundell        Mercedes-Benz       40.073  167.454
25      Luiz Garcia Jr.      Mercedes-Benz           --      --

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Morris Nunn , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia