Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves took over driving duties from teammate Gil de Ferran on Wednesday as the Team completed the second day of a three-day test at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. De Ferran started the test on...
Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves took over driving duties from teammate Gil de Ferran on Wednesday as the Team completed the second day of a three-day test at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. De Ferran started the test on Tuesday and drove for approximately 125 miles before Castroneves took over and ran for an additional 119 miles. Plans call for Castroneves to continue running today.
The first day of the test saw cool temperatures after a heavy storm hit the area and de Ferran's day got a late start as the Team waited for the track conditions to improve. The plan was to run a partial day so that de Ferran was able to get some seat time and evaluate some changes without subjecting him to any additional discomfort from his previous testing injuries. The Team was able to run for an hour and a half in the morning before breaking for lunch and making some suspension changes to the car. After lunch de Ferran ran for a few more hours before ending his day.
"Laguna Seca is a very physically demanding track, especially the corkscrew, and I'm still not 100% physically, so we decided to only run a partial day," said defending FedEx Series Champion de Ferran. "We were able to get in some track time and continue our testing program so I was fairly happy with the results. Right now, I'm just going to try to take it easy and get some rest - my ribs are still sore from my last two incidents - so we all agreed it was best to give myself some time to heal."
Castroneves' day started with better track conditions and he had a solid morning of testing, posting his quickest time (3rd fastest overall) in the morning hours.
"Overall, we had a productive day," said Team Manager Tom Wurtz. "Our track time was somewhat limited in that there were a number of red flags throughout the day and we had a few mechanical glitches in the afternoon. But these things happen when there are a lot of cars on the track -- I think there were at least 11 cars running today. It's good to run with a large group of teams because you can see where you stand and I think considering all the circumstances we came out OK. We're going to run Helio again today and now that he's more comfortable with the car and the set-up we should be able to improve our time."
"It was a good opportunity to run with some of the best teams on the circuit," said Castroneves. "We started off very well but unfortunately we had a few problems in the afternoon which kept me in the pits longer than I would've liked. The Team worked on the car last night so we should be good to go today, plus we have a lot of new tires so hopefully we can run all day."
As soon as they wrap up their three-day test in Laguna (Thursday) the Team is flying directly to Nazareth, PA to run a two-day test at the 1-mile oval as they continue their short oval testing program.
"It's always beneficial to have the opportunity to test at a track where we race during the season," said Wurtz. "Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll get in a solid two days of running. We're lucky that the track was available and that our race shop is so close by that we can schedule these tests with limited notice."
"I'm looking forward to getting out on the oval," said Castroneves. "This will be my first short oval testing of the season and it will be good to see what the 2001 Marlboro Honda Reynard can do. I'll be running at Texas next week which will also be very interesting and challenging since I've never run there before."
Gil de Ferran attended the ninth annual ESPY Awards on Monday night in Las Vegas as a nominee for the Driver of the Year Award.
"It was a very big honor for me to be nominated for such an important award," said de Ferran. "Just to be at an event with such an impressive group of athletes for whom I have a great deal of admiration and respect was very special for me. I really enjoyed meeting Cathy Freeman (Australia's 400-meter gold medalist who lit the torch at the 2000 Summer Olympics and was receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award), I've always been a big fan of the Olympics and it was an honor to meet her."