CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America Mercedes Friday Qualifying Notes

Race: Texaco/Havoline 200, Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. Date/Session: Aug. 14, 1998 Provisional Qualifying Unser is Top Mercedes at Road America Marlboro Driver Posts Third Consecutive Top-10 Qualifying Performance ...

Race:           Texaco/Havoline 200, Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Date/Session:   Aug. 14, 1998   Provisional Qualifying

Unser is Top Mercedes at Road America Marlboro Driver Posts Third Consecutive Top-10 Qualifying Performance

Although final qualifying is still to come, Al Unser Jr. posted his third consecutive top-10 qualifying performance of the season--at least provisionally. As the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes continued its steady improvement, Unser lapped the 4.048-mile Road America circuit just over half a second slower than pace setter Gil de Ferran, taking fourth place in provisional qualifying for Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200.

Unser's teammate Andre Ribeiro was ninth, despite crashing heavily early in the session. Ribeiro suffered a hairline fracture of his left fibula in the crash and was unable to rejoin the session. It is not known if he will be able to compete in Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200.

Mark Blundell was 12th in the Motorola Reynard/Mercedes. His PacWest Racing teammate Mauricio Gugelmin, who won the pole here last year, suffered a series of mechanical problems and failed to post a time during the session.

Rookies Helio Castro-Neves and JJ Lehto, both visiting the circuit for the first time, were 18th and 22nd, respectively. Player's/Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier was 20th, while teammate Greg Moore had his time disallowed when his car failed inspection after the session. Moore's Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes was found to be in violation of the "Two Inch Rule," which requires a clearance of at least two inches at three different reference points on the bottom of the car.

Final qualifying is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Sunday's 50-lap, 202.4-mile race will start at 2:30 p.m. local time and will be televised live on ESPN starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Mercedes Quotes Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Fourth - 100.983 sec. "We think qualifying went very well, except for Andre's accident. It's been a while since we qualified like this. Now we just need Lady Luck on our side in the race. I can't say enough about the great job Mercedes and Goodyear are doing. We worked with the Marlboro car this morning, not really for times, but for a race setup. And based on our performance this afternoon, we think we got pretty close."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Ninth - 100.983 sec. "I went out of turn six and got on the throttle. The car was running very well, but unfortunately the car ahead of me dropped a wheel and threw dirt on the track. I was the next car through, and I just lost the rear and went straight into the wall on the left side. The amount of damage was amazing based on how slow the corner is. I just hit at a bad angle. I'm anxious to run tomorrow because the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes is very good."

Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 12th - 101.801 sec. "Basically, we just have to find some more grip. When we find it, we'll go quicker. We think we have some ideas for tomorrow to get us going in the right direction. We'll make the changes overnight, and hopefully come back with something better tomorrow."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear: 18th - 102.330 sec. "This is my first time here, and we're doing pretty good. But we had some kind of mechanical problem, so the team is checking the gearbox and everything to find out what happened. It's unfortunate because my second set of tires was very good, and the setup was good. But the problem happened on one of our fastest laps."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 20th - 102.676 sec. "This circuit is not as physically tough as Mid-Ohio, but our car is just very loose at the moment. We're trying to work on that. It's pushing going in to the slow- and medium-speed corners, but in the high speed corners, the rear end snaps out. It almost felt like something was broken, but we didn't change much from the morning, and it shouldn't be that different from when we tested here."

JJ Lehto, No. 9 Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 22nd - 103.043 sec. "We only had a short run then an oil leak. There's no point running the backup car because it's a ‘97 car, and we haven't run it since sometime in April. The new one was due at the shop today. This is my first time here, and it's a place where you can really go fast if you can find the car. But if your car isn't working, it can be a really difficult circuit."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: No Time "We have a car that handles; we tested very well here. But we lost a turbo in the morning session, and then had a motor problem. We elected to go with the backup car this afternoon because the turbo is easier to change than the whole engine. Then we lost another turbo this afternoon, which indicates that there's something wrong with the installation, and that was it."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: No Time "I think we're about a second off of what we did here in testing. The track is a bit more slippery, probably because of all the rain they've had here recently. That's washed most of the rubber off of the surface. But it's getting better, we just have to watch out that the Trans-Am cars don't lay down too much oil. We made some major improvements from the morning and now we have an idea of which way the track is going, so we have a baseline to continue improving tomorrow."

Texaco/Havoline 200 Provisional Qualifying Road America Aug. 14, 1998 Pos. Driver Chassis/Engine/Tires Time Speed 1 Gil de Ferran Reynard/Honda/Goodyear 100.464 145.055 2 Dario Franchitti Reynard/Honda/Firestone 100.640 144.801 3 Michael Andretti Swift/Ford/Goodyear 100.767 144.619 4 Al Unser Jr. Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear 100.983 144.309 5 Alex Zanardi Reynard/Honda/Firestone 101.076 144.177 6 Christian Fittipaldi Swift/Ford/Goodyear 101.161 144.056 7 Scott Pruett Reynard/Ford/Firestone 101.192 144.011 8 Bryan Herta Reynard/Ford/Firestone 101.438 143.662 9 Andre Ribeiro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear 101.454 143.639 10 Bobby Rahal Reynard/Ford/Firestone 101.467 143.621 12 Mark Blundell Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 101.801 143.150 18 Helio Castro-Neves Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear 102.330 142.410 20 Patrick Carpentier Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 102.676 141.930 22 JJ Lehto Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 103.043 141.424 27 Mauricio Gugelmin Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone No Time 28 Greg Moore Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone No Time

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto