Date/Session: July 17, 1998 Qualifying Session ...
Date/Session: July 17, 1998 Qualifying Session #1
Unser Heads Mercedes-Benz at Molson Indy Rain and Incidents Disrupt Preliminary Qualifying
Marlboro Team Penske driver Al Unser Jr. set the pace for the Mercedes-Benz CART contingent during this afternoon's provisional qualifying for the Molson Indy Toronto, posting the ninth-fastest lap of the day. Although light rain made for unpredictable conditions in the first half of the session, Unser turned in a top-10 qualifying performance for the second week in a row. Alex Zanardi took the provisional pole position.
Defending race champion Mark Blundell, who took to one of the escape roads on this 1.721-mile temporary street circuit when the track was wettest, finished up a mere .023 seconds behind Unser, qualifying the Motorola Reynard/Mercedes 10th.
The Player's/Forsythe Racing duo of Canadians Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier were 12th and 14th, respectively, with Blundell's PacWest Racing teammate Mauricio Gugelmin between them.
The second half of the session (both provisional and final CART qualifying sessions are divided into two groups based on speed) was cut short when Robby Gordon struck the wall, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes driver Andre Ribeiro 15th, and rookies Helio Castro-Neves and JJ Lehto 20th and 26th, respectively.
Final qualifying is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Sunday's 95-lap, 163.495-mile race will start at 2:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised by ABC starting at 3:00 p.m.
Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Ninth - 59.645 sec.
"The rain slickened it up a bit, but mostly it just made you cautious, a little extra careful going into the corners. If you''re a little bit tentative, it suffers all the way around."
Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 10th - 59.668 sec.
"My team had me stay in the pits to wait for a gap in traffic and try to avoid the rain, but we ended up missing the window when the rain was lightest. Then I got caught out slightly going down through the gears approaching the hairpin, and I decided it was better to just run on rather than try to make it through the corner. We got right back on it, but we ran out of time."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 12th - 59.835 sec.
"I'm feeling much better than last weekend (when I had the flu). The rain was a little intimidating, because you never knew if the corner you were coming into was wet or dry, but it wasn't too bad. Towards the end there, it was pretty much dry."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 13th - 60.049 sec.
"It was hard to find a rhythm. We never got the timing right. The very first laps were good, but the rain started coming down when we went out on our second set (of tires). Then at the end, it started to dry up again, but we didn't get it quite right, and other people found more time. We've still got some work to do."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 14th - 60.086 sec.
"It wasn't too bad a session. We'll be in the fast group for (final qualifying) tomorrow, and that helps because you can get more clean laps. But we still need to improve the car. It's a bit slippery. We're having trouble putting the power down at the exit of the corners, and we need to make the car change directions much quicker."
Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 15th - 60.370 sec.
"It's a shame; we couldn't get our second set (of tires) on before they ended the session early. We improved a full second over this morning, but there's still something missing. We'll go back to the transporter and compare data with Al (Unser Jr.), and decide where to go from here."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear: 20th - 60.781 sec.
"We didn't have a chance to put on our second set of tires before the red flag waved and the session ended. But we improved quite a bit over this morning, and the quickest time I did today was on old tires, 10 laps already. So I'm pretty comfortable that we're going to improve and be okay tomorrow."
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