IRL: Castroneves sets pace at Motegi

Helio Castroneves set the fastest lap during practice for Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. Castroneves toured the 1.5-mile circuit at an average speed of 201.223 mph while Tony Kanaan was second fastest at 200.088 mph. "It was a...

Helio Castroneves set the fastest lap during practice for Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. Castroneves toured the 1.5-mile circuit at an average speed of 201.223 mph while Tony Kanaan was second fastest at 200.088 mph. "It was a good starting session for Marlboro Team Penske," said Castroneves. "We found a little difficulty in the beginning, but Ron (Ruzewski), the engineer, and I were working until we found a good setup. We're very pleased with the result."

Castroneves and Tony Kanaan were the only two drivers to break the 200 mph barrier. "The car was very, very good and the track wasn't as good as it will be tomorrow, but it was a very good lap," reported Kanaan after turning a lap at 200.088 mph.

The single practice session for the IndyCar Series, which started at 3:15 p.m., was cut short when rain returned to the circuit just after 5:00. "It was going to be the same for everybody," said Kanaan, "but it looks like we got a lot more than the guys in the second session, so we shouldn't complain about it."

Overcast skies and light rain greeted the teams this morning when they arrived at the mountain top circuit located two hours from Tokyo, Japan. With showers predicted for most of the day, teams were not optimistic about getting the cars on track.

Just as the morning practice session was scheduled to begin, the skies opened with rain continuing until mid-afternoon. Race officials were considering to cancel activities for the day the when the sun appeared accompanied by a strong wind, which aided in drying the track.

When the track was ready, rookie drivers, Marco Andretti, Jeff Simmons, and P.J. Chesson were allowed a 20 minute practice session to acclimate themselves to the high speed circuit. Tomas Enge was also permitted to participate with the rookies.

By the time the first group of drivers took to the track, the session was cut from 45 to 40 minutes because of dropping temperatures and the threat of more rain. With track temperatures reported in the 55 degree range, speeds did not approach the pole speed of 204.74 mph set by Sam Hornish last year.

Hornish was moving up the speed chart when he was involved in the only on track incident of the day. After turning the third fastest lap of the day, Hornish spun in Turn three, before the rear of his car made hard contact with the SAFER barrier. "The car was pretty good. We were just trying to get everything worked out. Nobody has the opportunity to test here, so when you come here, you try to learn as much as you can in what little time that you get. It's unfortunate the accident happened on the lap after the fast lap. I just turned into (Turn) 3 and the back end came around. I'm not sure what happened. It's unfortunate. It's going to be a lot of work for us over the next couple days to get back to where we need to be."

Tomas Scheckter was fourth fastest followed by Scott Sharp and Bryan Herta.

IndyCar Series competitors return the to 1.5-mile superspeedway Friday morning at 9:00 am.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , P.J. Chesson
Teams Team Penske