IRL: Motegi: Panoz G Force qualifying report

Greg Ray Leads Five Panoz G Force Top Ten Drivers in Japan Twin Ring Motegi, April 16, 2004 A full complement of 22 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers registered qualifying attempts for Saturday's second annual Japan Indy 300 at the ...

Greg Ray Leads Five Panoz G Force Top Ten Drivers in Japan

Twin Ring Motegi, April 16, 2004 A full complement of 22 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series drivers registered qualifying attempts for Saturday's second annual Japan Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval northwest of Tokyo this afternoon, 19 of them within 8/10ths of a second on this egg-shaped circuit.

Panoz G Force pilots secured half the top ten slots, with Texan Greg Ray leading the pack in second place to celebrate the first anniversary of his Access Motorsports team. Ray's lap of 26.599 seconds (205.722mph) in the #13 Renovac Panoz G Force/Honda was just .005 seconds behind polesitter Dan Wheldon. Once again, "the wind played a little havoc out there, but it was a good lap and I'm pleased." With only one car, "you can only take so many risks and I left a little bit on the table."

Japanese rookie Kosuke Matsuura thrilled home country fans with his fourth-place run in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda at 26.611 seconds (205.629mph) and then declared, "I am very happy. Each session my car was improving and I have a good car for the race." Buddy Rice landed in fifth place with the #15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda, touring at 26.640 seconds (205.408mph). Noting the grid is "very close," Rice allowed, "We worked very hard on race settings and we still have a bit left in the car."

Recovering from his big crash yesterday, reigning IRL champ Scott Dixon took the backup #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to sixth place and admitted "The wind is still a factor in turns 3 and 4. The car was good enough but I was overly cautious," not wanting to damage his spare.

Vitor Meira's lap of 26.741 seconds (204.631mph) was good for eighth in his first drive of Team Rahal's #17 Panoz G Force/Honda. Meira "pushed it a little too hard on my second lap and the car didn't stick as well" as it had on his first go-round. First to qualify, Darren Manning rounded out the top ten with a lap of 26.778 second (204.345mph) in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. "The wind shuffled the heck," the Briton said. "I'm happy with the car and expect it will be better in the race."

This final hurrah for the IndyCar Series' 3.5-liter power mills before changing to 3-liter engines at Indianapolis next month, the Japan Indy 300 200-lap race airs live on ESPN2 in the US, beginning at 11:30PM EDT.

-g force-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Greg Ray , Scott Dixon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Vitor Meira