CHAMPCAR/CART: Ron Richards Motegi Diary - Thursday

Newsgroups: Organization: MNI - Motorsport News International Approved: From: Motorsport News International <> Followup-To: Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 08:26:54...

Newsgroups: Organization: MNI - Motorsport News International Approved: From: Motorsport News International <> Followup-To: Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 08:26:54 -0400 (EDT)

Motegi Diary: It's All About the Fans by Ron Richards

MOTEGI, Japan -- Thursday was a great time to cruise around the Twin Ring Motegi paddock.

Fans throughout the facility looked for autographs of their favorite drivers and were delighted to find the Champ Car drivers so accessible. Throughout the garage area, drivers signed for hundreds of fans.

Ultimately, that's what it's all about the fan. With all we are have to do, we occasionally lose sight of the fact that we do this for the fans. About 6,000 of them were in the facility Thursday to watch Adrian Fernandez, who won the race here last year, turn in the quickest time in Friday's practice session at slightly more than 216 mph.

At Twin Ring Motegi, fans have the opportunity to do a lot more than watch and solicit drivers. First off, it is one of the most magnificent racing facilities in the world. Besides the super speedway, it also boasts a 1.5-mile road course.

The Motegi experience is also much more. Four Go Kart tracks, midgets on a dirt oval, side-by-side formula cars and a safe driving school and skid pad give fans the opportunity to get behind the wheel when the Champ Cars are not on course.

The "midway" area inside the main entrance to the facility is lined with all sorts of concessionaires. The activity has nearly doubled since last year. The normal stuff is available: T-shirts, pins, caps, blankets, die-cast cars, jackets, bumper stickers and decals head the list of items.

CART Licensed Products has a representative number of Champ Car items, including CART T-shirts, jackets, caps and polo shirts. Individual driver merchandise is extremely popular, and clothing featuring Jimmy Vasser, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran, Fernandez, Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin were among the items seen on the midway.

Besides the merchandise, the food being sold included ice cream, fish, a variety of Motegi-logoed biscuits and a number of meat items on a stick.

In talking with a few of the attendees -- in a limited way because of language barriers -- it was interesting to get their impressions of Champ Cars and our drivers. Responses ranged from "So fast" to "I must come back to the race on Saturday to see more. This is very exciting."

Several knew the names Michael Andretti and Unser. A few knew of Alex Zanardi and Dario Franchitti. Fernandez, comfortable in his role as the defending winner at Motegi, was agreeable about signing autographs. He did so quickly before heading up the hill to the Hotel Twin Ring.

It was a wonderful day for the fans, and they all dealt with an extrememly brisk day. Temperatures eventually got to around 50 F under sunny skies, but didn't stay there for long, and wind chills were in the 30s.

More tomorrow.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell