CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto Friday qualifying report

Motorsport News International Toronto Canada July 17 1998 Zanardi fastest, pursued by De Ferran, Andretti and Franchitti Target/Chip Ganassi driver Alex Zanardi (Reynard Honda) confirmed that he is the man with the momentum by winning the ...

Motorsport News International Toronto Canada July 17 1998

Zanardi fastest, pursued by De Ferran, Andretti and Franchitti

Target/Chip Ganassi driver Alex Zanardi (Reynard Honda) confirmed that he is the man with the momentum by winning the 'provisional pole' today at Toronto's Exhibition Place temporary circuit. Although Friday's practice is more indicative of who has come best prepared it still gives Alex the initiative in seeking the Pole award of $10,000 and the more significant $270,000 rollover bonus money is also secures for the pole and race win combination. Something that would seem reasonably plausible, if it were not for the fact that Alex has contrived not to gain a pole position for the last 12 races.

The faster 'session one group' today was run in mixed conditions with light rain falling during the first few minutes and then again late in the session. This rain did not so much cause upset on the track as in the minds of the drivers. Michael Andretti (Newman Haas / Swift Ford) particularly thought that the rain would cause slippery conditions and was considering staying in the pits until Zanardi put his fast lap in. This of course motivated him to go out again on to the track but was frustrated by an apparently obstructive Paul Tracy (22nd fastest today) on his fastest lap. Michael Andretti finished the day .265 seconds behind Alex Zanardi's time of 58.737 seconds (105.580 MPH).

Gil de Ferran (Walker Racing Reynard Honda) was second fastest today and was also concerned about the weather's impact on his time. " I was concerned about slipping... but Zanardi put a good time in, even with the conditions". Right from the beginning of the session Gil was among the fastest and it was apparent that 'being the best prepared' paid off for him. De Ferran stated " We started with a 'guessed' setting based on last year and what we have learned this year, and it was a good beginning". "We did not have to make big changes, just small alterations, through the session". He also complimented Goodyear on their performance noting that while they have been successful in race form this year, they have worked hard recently on their qualifying form to good result.

Alex Zanardi is the man of the moment however. Both in terms of performance and his presence around the circuit. A crowd gathers whenever he moves and though turning up late to the press conference he was still able to steal the show and give cause for amusement. "I looked at my watch this morning and I was worried" he related in heavily accented English. "Friday 17th in Italy is like Friday 13th in America. So I was worried, but instead of touching wood as American's do, we touch a body part". Alex went on to explain this in more detail. Michael Andretti spoke frankly by saying "That's more information than I needed to know".

Whatever the solution, the curse of Friday the 17th had no ill affect on Alex. He was fast from the beginning of the session and steadily improved so that he was fastest at the end. He is definitely the driver who looks on top of his game currently. Not withstanding his dearth of poles he looks to be the driver most likely to get the elusive Pole/Win bonus check at the moment.

Other notables in the results were Tony Kanaan (Reynard Honda) being fastest in the ostensibly slower second group. While a fully dry circuit would have helped his cause it still bodes well for his weekend. Local Toronto hero Paul Tracy languishes in 22nd place, his frustration possibly being felt by the obstructed Michael Andretti.

Friday qualifying measures the preparation, momentum and guesswork of teams. Their hard work and their ability to react will be the determining factor for the final qualifying on Saturday afternoon (12:45 PM - 2:00 PM Eastern) and luck can be added as a factor in their fortunes for Sunday.

-------------------------- NetAxis -------------------------- --- NetAxis is MNI's ISP of choice at the '98 Molson Indy --- ---- Toronto -- Montreal -- 514-482-8989 -- 888-482-8989 ---- ----------------- http://www.netaxis.ca/ --------------------

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi