Rookie Taylor Top Chevy Qualifier in Japan MOTEGI, Japan, April 16, 2004 - Englishman Mark Taylor, an IRL rookie, was the fastest of the five Chevy-powered drivers for Saturday's Indy Japan 300. Taylor qualified the Menards/Johns Manville ...
Rookie Taylor Top Chevy Qualifier in Japan
MOTEGI, Japan, April 16, 2004 - Englishman Mark Taylor, an IRL rookie, was the fastest of the five Chevy-powered drivers for Saturday's Indy Japan 300. Taylor qualified the Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara in the 14th spot at 203.787 mph. His Panther Racing teammate Tomas Scheckter was 16th fastest at 202.952 mph. Red Bull Cheever Racing teammates Alex Barron and Ed Carpenter qualified 19th and 20th respectively, and Robbie Buhl was 21st in the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Team Purex Chevrolet Dallara.
Honda drivers Dan Wheldon and Greg Ray will start on the front row after qualifying at 205.762 and 205.722 mph respectively.
The egg-shaped 1.5-mile oval north of Tokyo has a challenging configuration with sweeping turns in the first two corners and tight-radius turns in the third and fourth corners. Gusty winds at the mountaintop track added to the degree of difficulty.
"I've never been here before, and it's a completely different track to anything I've driven on," said Taylor. "With the wind picking up, we knew it was going to be tough this afternoon. The car's good - it's just a matter of getting time on the track.
"We had some problems in practice yesterday, so it was good to get out this morning and get comfortable with the car," Taylor continued. "Therefore I was able to push it a bit more than I did yesterday. I was happy with the qualifying lap, but there is always room for improvement. We're going in the right direction, and that's what matters. Whatever happens tomorrow, it's going to be a long, hard race and should be good fun."
Scheckter rebounded from an accident yesterday in practice and qualified his spare Pennzoil Chevrolet Dallara today.
"I didn't get Turns 3 and 4 right and tried to carry a little too much speed," Scheckter said. "That cost maybe a mile and a half on the qualifying lap. I'm disappointed because everyone at Pennzoil Panther Racing and Chevy has worked hard. It's been a tough weekend so far, and I just made it a little tougher for myself, but I think we'll have a good race car."
According to GM Racing aerodynamics and chassis engineer Kevin Bayless, the Twin Ring Motegi circuit makes unique demands.
"Motegi requires a compromise on chassis setups because in essence you have two different tracks in one lap," Bayless explained. "It takes a delicate balance to get through the slow end of the track as fast as you can without sacrificing speed on the fast end of the track."
The Red Bull Cheever Racing team elected to change engines in Alex Barron's Dallara after qualifying and consequently Barron will start at the back of the field.
"We thought the car would be quicker than that," said Barron. "We made some last-minute changes to the car, and we didn't have much time to prepare. We got in the qualifying line and thought everything was going to be OK. We had a really good balance with the car but didn't have the speed."
Rookie Ed Carpenter recovered from a spin on the front stretch in the morning session before making his qualifying run for his first race at Motegi.
"We've been struggling a little all weekend," Carpenter conceded. "We had a little accident at the end of the last practice session that set us back. We tried a different approach for qualifying. We're going to continue to work on our race car and hope for a better tomorrow."
"We had a lot of movement in the car in the corners," Buhl reported after his qualifying laps. "We have to focus on having a good car with a setup we can drive all day. We haven't been at the front so we have to concentrate on being on a good race pace."
The Indy Japan 300 will get the green flag at 12:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, April 17. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live in the U.S. on ESPN2 at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night, April 16.