CHAMPCAR/CART: Thursday Practice Report

Fernandez Two for Two by Robin Miller MOTEGI, Japan -- Two weeks ago it was a show car on its way to Mexico City. At Twin Ring Motegi on Thursday, it was the fastest car on the racetrack. Adrian Fernandez, driving a Reynard chassis...

Fernandez Two for Two by Robin Miller MOTEGI, Japan -- Two weeks ago it was a show car on its way to Mexico City. At Twin Ring Motegi on Thursday, it was the fastest car on the racetrack.

Adrian Fernandez, driving a Reynard chassis that has pieces from '97 and '98 models, set the pace in both sessions of practice for Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 kilometers. The 33-year-old veteran stormed the 1.5-mile oval at 25.732 seconds (216.711 mph) in the Tecate Reynard/Ford/Firestone on a cold, blustery day.

"The car felt better in the afternoon than this morning, but it was consistent and fast both times," said the Patrick Racing driver, who won Motegi's inaugural race in 1998. "The hard work this crew has put in the past two weeks has really paid off. We lost a car at Homestead because of an oil leak, and they had to prepare a completely different car to get here.

"It's not a new car, but it's a fast car, and that's all that counts."

Fernandez audio clip

Mauricio Gugelmin, in the Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone, clocked the second quickest lap at 25.742 seconds (216.627 mph), as the top 11 drivers were separated by only two-tenths of a second.

"The wind is very tricky, and it really moves your car around," said Gugelmin, referring to the 25 mph gusts. "It keeps you very focused, let me tell you."

Gugelmin audio clip

Paul Tracy, who missed the season opener at Homestead due to a one-race suspension for rough driving, was in good form. Although he missed most of the morning session, he came back to run a lap of 25.801 seconds (216.131 mph) in the KOOL Reynard/Honda/Firestone.

"It feels good to be back," he said. "And after missing almost the whole first session with two major problems [smoked CV joint and a blown engine], this team did a great job of bouncing back and not panicking. It was the best practice session we've had in the last two years."

Jimmy Vasser, in the Target Reynard/Honda/Firestone, posted the fourth fastest speed of 216.123 mph (25.802 seconds), and Michael Andretti turned a 25.879-second lap (215.480 mph) in the Kmart Swift/Ford/Firestone before his afternoon accident with Juan Montoya.

Montoya, who wound up eighth overall in the other Target car, crashed into Andretti early in the second session. Both cars were heavily damaged, but neither driver was injured. Andretti finished fifth overall, but 24th in the second session after finishing only eight laps.

While Ford, Mercedes and Honda were first, second and third in the speed department, Toyota checked in 13th with Robby Gordon, who was only three-tenths off Fernandez's top lap.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Mauricio Gugelmin , Robin Miller