Rain washes out Motegi IRL qualifying; Hornish is top Chevy starter. MOTEGI, Japan, April 12, 2003 - The rain that makes Japan an island of green brought an early end to qualifying for Sunday's inaugural Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. The...
Rain washes out Motegi IRL qualifying; Hornish is top Chevy starter.
MOTEGI, Japan, April 12, 2003 - The rain that makes Japan an island of green brought an early end to qualifying for Sunday's inaugural Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. The showers that began after six cars had completed their qualifying turned to steady rain, forcing IRL officials to cancel qualifying for the series' first overseas race. Per IRL rules, the starting grid was determined by the best times run in the three practice sessions. Seven of the 24 starters will use the new 3.5-liter Chevy Indy V8.
Sam Hornish Jr. is the top Chevy seed in the 24-car field. He circled the 1.5-mile oval at 203.068 mph in Friday's practice to put Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara 13th on the grid. He will start alongside Sarah Fisher, who turned a fast lap of 202.600 mph on Saturday morning to put Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Chevrolet Dallara 14th on the grid.
"My qualifying run wasn't as fast as we'd like it to be, but the car was very good and we'll see what we can do tomorrow," said Hornish after running 199.871 mph in the abbreviated qualifying session. "When I went out there it was sprinkling a little, but with the rain, it really doesn't matter how qualifying went."
The egg-shaped Motegi track is notable for the different radius turns at the ends of the track. While all four corners are banked at 10 degrees, the third and fourth turns are much tighter than the wide-open first and second turns.
"In qualifying everyone runs one gear, but in the race I think we'll be shifting gears every lap," Hornish explained. "This track is like a larger version of St. Louis or Phoenix. Whenever you have a track that's pinched at one end, you have to have the best of both worlds. You want to free up the car enough to get through Turn 1 and Turn 2 and be fast on the straightaway, but you also have to be able to make it through 3 and 4. I think we'll be able to pass in several places. It will come down to having a good setup and keeping up the momentum."
Buddy Lazier was among the six drivers who completed a two-lap run in the rain-shortened qualifying session. The rain was a blessing, as Lazier's 200.687 mph practice speed easily bettered his 194.366 mph qualifying speed. He will start 17th in Sunday's race.
"The car was very, very loose," said Lazier after his qualifying run. "We changed the car; we're still learning. We ran pretty good this morning, but it was a really disappointing qualifying run. We missed on something, but we'll learn from it and be good tomorrow. The car was dangerously loose and the rearend didn't want to stay underneath me. This is the first fast track we've been to; Phoenix was our first race with this car."
The Japan Indy 300 will start at 12:30 p.m. local Japan time on Sunday, April 13. The 300-mile, 200-lap race will be televised on tape delay in the U.S. by ABC at 1 p.m. EDT and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.
CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES:
SARAH FISHER, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara, qualified 14th at 202.600 mph:
"We came a really long way. I was pretty happy because we started off slow, but we all pitched in after the first session. Everybody gave just a little bit more in the afternoon, and it shows what happens when you give your all. We had more than a second gain. We are just looking at some things we can do for Sunday, just so we have a good race car. As long as we have that, we will be pretty good."
JAQUES LAZIER, Team Menard Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara, qualified 16th at 201.626 mph:
"I am pretty happy with our performance right now. We had all kinds of problems in the first session, then made several improvements in the second session. Things are going really well."
BUDDY RICE, Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara, qualified 20th at 199.851 mph:
"It's another of these weekends that has not gone as perfect as we planned so far, but it's going to work out OK, like it did for us at Phoenix. The Twin Ring Motegi is a pretty neat track. It's fun. There's a lot of G's, and things are happening fast. It will be a good race."