Alex Tagliani set the pace in free practice for the Rockingham 500, clinching the fastest time on the very last lap. Cristiano Da Matta had led for the best part of the 135-minute session, suddenly picking up pace midway though and going straight...
Alex Tagliani set the pace in free practice for the Rockingham 500, clinching the fastest time on the very last lap. Cristiano Da Matta had led for the best part of the 135-minute session, suddenly picking up pace midway though and going straight to the top of the timesheets. However Tagliani sneaked in a 24.811 second lap to steal the fastest time.
The conditions were bright and sunny for the session and the track was dry. Most cars came out for a few early exploratory laps and then the teams checked over the cars. The were several yellow flag periods early on as the drivers reported debris at various points around the track but these were cleared each time.
After a period of exploring different lines and settings the pace picked up and times fell towards the 25-second barrier. Paul Tracy and then Kenny Brack took turns at the top of the time sheets before da Matta suddenly improved from mid-field to become fastest. Behind him there was a three-way battle for second with Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier and Tora Takagi all exchanging the place.
Michel Jourdain Jr suffered the first mechanical failure of the meeting when he pulled off at Turn 3 with a smoking car. Scott Dixon also suffered a problem at the end of the session as he pulled off in Turn 1 and brought out the seventh and final yellow flag of the session – the other yellow flags had been for track inspections.
Dario Franchitti was happy with his performance and confident of getting pole position for his home race. He explained that the car was pretty competitive right from the start and only required minor tweaks and adjustments during the session.
Darren Manning was running as high as 13th place for Team St George but unfortunately suffered gearbox problems and was unable to complete the practice. However the team were confident that the problem would be resolved in time for qualifying and that a suitable set-up had been found.
Qualifying takes place at 1300GMT. The order of the qualifying laps will be the reverse of the order of the free practice results.