VANCOUVER, British Columbia (September 3, 1999) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green, who ideally would like to mirror last year's success at the Molson Indy Vancouver, got started in the right direction Friday by earning the...
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (September 3, 1999) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green, who ideally would like to mirror last year's success at the Molson Indy Vancouver, got started in the right direction Friday by earning the provisional pole before a crowd of 42,739 at Concord Pacific Place. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), who won this event from the pole last year, is halfway to defending the top starting position by landing the provisional with a lap of 104.520 miles per hour (1 minute, 1.343 seconds) on the reconfigured 1.781-mile temporary street circuit. He will be in search of his second pole of the season and the eighth of his career when final qualifying begins at 3:45 p.m. ET Saturday. The Molson Indy Vancouver, the 16th round of the FedEx Championship Series, is set for a 4 p.m. ET start Sunday and will be televised live on ABC-TV. The pole position brings with it a PPG Cup point, which would assist Franchitti in his pursuit of rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), the FedEx Championship Series leader. Montoya holds a 172-168 points lead over Franchitti heading into this weekend. Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift) qualified second at 103.997 mph (1:01.652). He is looking to equal his career-best start - second at Rio in 1997. His current season-best start is fifth, which he established at Cleveland and matched at Detroit. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) initially was second fastest in provisional qualifying, but his car failed post-qualifying technical inspection. The disqualification came due to a failure to aerodynamic component and the chassis reference plane. Tracy's time was disallowed, but he will be able to participate in Saturday's final qualifying session. Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team, Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) was third fastest at 103.889 mph (1:01.716) and was followed by Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) at 103.867 mph (1:01.729). Montoya was fifth fastest at 103.801 mph (1:01.768).
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I was just trying to get used to the track this morning. It was a bit of trouble to get a clean lap during qualifying. After we went out on the first set of tires, I was debating whether to put a new set on or whether to save them for the race. I said 'Aw, let's try it,' and went out and did one flying lap and came in and that was it."
ROBERTO MORENO, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "It took a little while to get used to the track because this is my first time here. Our car was not fantastic this morning, but I had a feeling we could be better if we went to our old street course setup, and my engineer agreed straightaway. We got used to the track and the time was there. I think we can be even better tomorrow."
GREG MOORE, Player's Forsythe Racing Team, Ltd. Mercedes Reynard: "We're quite happy with today's results. In fact, we're only four-tenths [of a second] off the pole. The car is so much better than this morning, and we know tomorrow we should be even faster."
* Provisional polesitter Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) has won the pole for three of the past five FedEx Championship Series events contested on Canadian soil. The run includes poles at Toronto in 1997 and '98, as well as last year's pole at Vancouver. Franchitti is seeking his second pole position in the past three FedEx Championship Series events, following the Aug. 13 pole he earned at Mid-Ohio.
* Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team, Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) qualified third and is seeking his best start since third at Milwaukee and a career best at Vancouver (fourth last year).
* Player's Forsythe Racing announced Friday that Canadian drivers Lee Bentham, Alexandre Tagliani and David Empringham will take part in testing sessions next month to help decide who will succeed departing driver Greg Moore during the 2000 season. Moore announced last month that he was leaving Player's Forsythe Racing to join Marlboro Team Penske next season in the first year of a multi-year agreement. Each driver will be allotted two days of testing on the road course at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Tagliani's session is scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17; Bentham's for Sept. 19 and 20 and Empringham's for Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Bentham, of Newmarket, Ontario, and Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Quebec, have been teammates on the Player's Atlantic team the last two seasons. Bentham won the 1998 Atlantic championship while Tagliani owns six career victories in the series. Empringham, of Toronto, is a two-time Atlantic champion and won the 1996 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights championship. "The drivers are aware that this isn't a contest to find out who does the fastest lap," said Neil Micklewright, Vice President of Operations for Player's Forsythe Racing. "The drivers will be evaluated on such aspects as the consistency of their lap times, their ability to adapt to certain situations and their communication with engineers. Our game plan is that the drivers can get accustomed to the car on the first day, while the second day will be used to check on what kind of feedback we get from the drivers about how the car handles."
Qualifying for the Molson Indy Vancouver will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.