IRL: Motegi: Panoz day one practice report

Race preparation name of game for Panoz drivers at Motegi TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 28, 2005 - Two practice sessions, in two groups Thursday at Twin Ring Motegi gives the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers a great opportunity to prep for ...

Race preparation name of game for Panoz drivers at Motegi

TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 28, 2005 - Two practice sessions, in two groups Thursday at Twin Ring Motegi gives the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers a great opportunity to prep for Saturday's third annual Japan Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile paper clip of an oval in Tochigi Prefecture.

In the Panoz family of seven drivers, running in the second group of cars proved an advantage for Vitor Meira in the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone entry. He placed fifth for the day with a speed of 201.844mph. "Last year I was new to this track," Meira noted, "and it's nice to come back with the same team and car.

"We've been working hard to get our oval setup back to what we had last year and are coming into the strength of our team and package on the big ovals. The Panoz is getting better with each session and the car felt especially good in the second session today," Meira revealed.

Teammate Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner placed seventh with his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda at 201.722mph and quickest in the first group this afternoon. "Due to our points position, we had to run in the first groups today. We have made good progress and I think we're closer to the leaders after the first day. Due to the nature of this track," Rice explained, "I think you can come from behind in the race. This track is wide enough in turns one and two to go to the front if your car is handling well."

The third member of the Rahal Letterman Racing group, rookie Danica Patrick earned eighth for the day in her #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda with her lap of 200.289mph, also turned in the first afternoon group. "It was a pretty solid day for us today. It took some time to get to speed because I'm new to this track and we made some good changes to the Panoz in each session. The weather was great," she said of the warm, sunny and breezy conditions, "even though it was a little hotter than we expected."

Local favorite Kosuke Matsuura took ninth over all with his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda on this Honda-owned multi-purpose track. The Japanese ace had troubles getting around the Motegi circuit in the first practice on a dirty track. "In the second session the car was much better; we improved by almost a second and I am very confident for qualifying" he declared after running199.301mph.

The 2003 Twin Ring Motegi victor, Scott Sharp rounded out the top ten in his #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda with a lap of 198.794mph, turned in the afternoon session. "We worked a lot on race setup because the conditions are a lot like what we'll experience in the [200-lap] race on Saturday. I'm pleased with where the Delphi Panoz car is at, but we still need some fine-tuning."

The 23 Indy cars at Twin Ring Motegi will get the opportunity to practice once again Friday morning before qualifying will determine the starting field for the Japan Indy 300, race #4 in a 17-event campaign.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Vitor Meira