Franchitti Wins Rio 400 Pole In Track Record Fashion Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green established a new Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway track record Saturday while grabbing the pole position for...
Franchitti Wins Rio 400 Pole In Track Record Fashion
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green established a new Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway track record Saturday while grabbing the pole position for Sunday's Rio 400 at Nelson Piquet International Raceway.
Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) averaged a record 172.039 mph (39.005 seconds) on the 1.864-mile oval to earn the right to lead 28 drivers to the green flag at noon ET Sunday (1 p.m. local time).,
While earning his second career pole position and first on an oval, Franchitti broke the track qualifying record of 171.921 mph (39.034 sec) set by Mauricio Gugelmin en route to his first FedEx Championship Series career pole last year. Franchitti's previous pole position came on a temporary street circuit at Toronto last year.
Franchitti claimed the $10,000 Marlboro Pole Award and the right to earn an additional $180,000 in rollover bonus money with a victory. The bonus, a record for the six-year-old Marlboro Pole Award, has not been claimed since Alex Zanardi's victory at Cleveland in July, 12 events ago.
Several drivers struggled with Turn 4 on the d-shaped oval, most notably Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) who starts 27th after crashing during qualifying for the first time in his recollection. Franchitti, however, said he encountered little difficulty en route to the pole. It was the first for a Barry Green-owned car since Jacques Villeneuve's at Laguna Seca in 1995.
"Basically, [Team KOOL Green teammate] Paul [Tracy] came up after his [qualifying] run and said the track wasn't as bad as it appeared on TV," Franchitti said. "We were going to make some adjustments to the car, but he said there was no need. The car felt very, very good this morning [during practice]. I came in [after practice] and said, 'There's more time there.' I'm surprised these other guys didn't go faster, to be honest."
Defending PPG Cup champion Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) qualified second at 171.341 mph (39.164 sec) to earn his 19th front-row start in 37 FedEx Championship Series career events. He makes his first front-row start since the outside pole at Laguna Seca last year.
"The car was not as good this morning [during practice]," Zanardi said. "We had a little misfire this morning and I couldn't run well, so I'm not really surprised that I went faster this afternoon. This track takes some work. Everybody is running [with] so little downforce, but the circuit is in worse condition this year than last in terms of grip, so you have to be careful."
Rookie Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) qualified third at 171.298 mph (39.176 sec), a career-best in five events and the best for a Tasman Motorsports Group entry since Andre Ribeiro's pole at Toronto in 1996.
"I've had a problem both days with the gearbox and only did 40 laps total. Fortunately, LCI and the Tasman team did a good job setting up the car,'' Kanaan said. "We didn't change the setup since we arrived here. We just changed one rear spring, so that tells you the car was good right away. Now it's important to go out and do well in the race."
Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) qualified fourth at 171.284 mph (39.177 sec) and was followed by Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) at 171.166 mph (39.204 sec).
The top five qualifiers included three Brazilians: Kanaan, de Ferran and Fittipaldi. The top four were Honda-powered, a first for the engine manufacturer, and the top three were on Firestone tires.
PPG Cup points leader Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) qualified seventh at 170.779 mph (39.293 sec). He completed only one of his allotted two qualifying laps before spinning on his second circuit. He was uninjured in the incident.
Source: CART Online