CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Team Johansson Friday qualifying report

Vasser and Hunter-Reay make 2003 Champ Car debut with American Spirit. Less than two months ago, Stefan Johansson announced his plans for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Presented by Ford. Today, it all became a reality.

Vasser and Hunter-Reay make 2003 Champ Car debut with American Spirit.

Less than two months ago, Stefan Johansson announced his plans for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Presented by Ford. Today, it all became a reality. Jimmy Vasser and his fellow American teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay kicked off their assault on the 2003 Champ Car title. The first round of morning practice went very well for both drivers; Hunter-Reay was the fastest car on track for a portion of his first-ever Champ Car session and ran in the top-five in 16 of his 20 laps. He finished the session the eight fastest car; a very respectable result considering his only test was at Spring Training. Vasser's morning started off well, his experience was visible, he ran a flawless session and was the sixth fastest car by the time the checkered flag fell.

Hunter-Reay recorded another top-ten finish in the second round of practice; he was the tenth fastest car after 23 laps with a best time of 1:03.448. Vasser's day took a turn for the worse; his car was plagued with electrical problems and retired after just two laps. The team brought out the back up car for the former champion, but time ran out and the session ended, with only two laps in the books for Vasser.

The afternoon brought hot and humid weather and a frustrating qualifying session for both American Spirit Team Johansson drivers. Hunter-Reay waited out the first 12 minutes of qualifying before giving it his best on the slippery street circuit. Within three laps, he jumped five positions on the speed charts. With eight laps under his belt and seven to go, he spun near the pit entry. As a result of the spin, the red flag appeared and Hunter-Reay lost his best lap time. His second best time of 1:04.347 was still good enough for 13th, not bad for his first day at work.

Looking for the optimal track conditions, Vasser charged onto the track with 24 minutes remaining in the qualifying session. He had 24 minutes to complete 15 laps, no problem, as long as the remainder of the session would be trouble-free. Two red flags destroyed his strategic plan, leaving the former champion enough time to complete just nine of his 15 allotted laps. As usual he was up to speed immediately and fast when he was on track, unfortunately he did not have the opportunity to spend much time there. Vasser qualified his #12 Reynard in the 11th position today, with a best time of 1:03.438.

Hunter-Reay on His First Day Competing in a Champ Car:
"The first sessions for us this morning were very positive. I was hoping that would give us an indication of where we would be this afternoon. Unfortunately we are not in the top ten after the first round of qualifying. We have been struggling with the setup all day, but the guys are working hard and I think things should be better tomorrow. It is a shame about the spin, I lost my fastest lap. The unusual thing is, I still gained a position without running. As far as the transition to Champ Cars, they are a blast to drive. I wish I had had a bit more testing. This track is awesome, the fans have been terrific and I am really happy to be here."

Jimmy Vasser on Qualifying:
"Mechanical gremlins got the best of us today. We had a problem this morning that cost us most of the second session and then the red flags and a problem with the starter got us this afternoon. We need to maximize our track time to run up front and we didn't today. We'll get back on the right track for tomorrow, hopefully the weather will hold out for us."

Stefan Johansson, Team Owner on his Teams First Day of Competition:
"Well, obviously I am a little disappointed. We lost a lot of time on the track today. We are a new team without much track time as it is, so that really hurt us. We've got a great group of guys here, they will work hard to sort out the issues we had to day. Hopefully tomorrow we will get settled a bit and we complete all of the sessions on both cars."

-astj-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Jimmy Vasser