IRL: Motegi: Thursday practice report

Hondas Lead First Practice at Twin Ring Motegi MOTEGI, Japan, April 15, 2004 -- Honda drivers paced the opening day of practice for the Indy Japan 300 posting three of the five fastest times on a blustery day at Twin Ring Motegi on April ...

Hondas Lead First Practice at Twin Ring Motegi

MOTEGI, Japan, April 15, 2004 -- Honda drivers paced the opening day of practice for the Indy Japan 300 posting three of the five fastest times on a blustery day at Twin Ring Motegi on April 15.

Andretti Green teammates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti posted the top times of the day, posting laps of 26.8357 seconds, 203.907 mph, and 27.0390 seconds, 202.374 mph, respectively, in their Dallara/Honda/Firestone entries. Defending Indy Japan 300 winner Scott Sharp was third with a fast lap of 27.1018 seconds, 201.905 mph, in his Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

The day marred by four separate incidents which damaged the cars of Scott Dixon, Tomas Scheckter, Sam Hornish Jr., and Tora Takagi. All four incidents occurred in Turn 4.

Dixon suffered a non-displaced hairline fracture of the tip of fibula in his left ankle. He will be re-evaluated by doctors Friday morning.

Takagi was airlifted to Dokkyo University Hospital complaining of back pain. He will undergo X-rays of his neck and back.


ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "This is a great way to test ourselves and prepare for Indy. I feel like we're making great progress. We made a big improvement from the first session to the second with the balance of the car and have made a lot of good changes to prepare ourselves for both qualifying and the race. I'm looking forward to this event."

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're making progress and getting better each time out. It was a hard day since I've never been here before, so I was concentrating on getting my bearings and getting used to the track. We still have some work to do to make the car as good as it needs to be for the race, but I'm looking forward to posting strong results this time out for Red Bull Cheever Racing."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We spent the day working on our baseline setup. It was very windy, and the Marlboro Team Penske car had a bit of understeer which we were able to improve by the end of the day. Tomorrow we'll work on our qualifying setup and see if we can put the car at the front of the grid for Saturday's race."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The first session, we were just dialing the Conseco car in with the new aero package. Also, it's my first time here with the Dallara chassis because last year I ran a (Panoz) G-Force. In the second session, we worked harder on picking up our speed, and I think we have a pretty good race car. It was a good first day."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Alpine Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This was one of the hardest first days we've had because of the wind and the dust on the track. The team came well prepared with all four cars, but it's only the first day. There's no points for the first day. Tomorrow is when the important stuff starts. It's all about Saturday."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Our focus today was working on race setup. The car had understeer so we were trying a number of changes to improve the balance. Overall, track conditions were pretty good, but it got windier later in the day. In the afternoon session, I was coming out of Turn 4 when the Marlboro Team Penske car pushed up. I lifted but unfortunately still made contact with the wall. The primary car was beyond repair, so we're going to our backup. Tomorrow morning, we'll shake down the car and get ready for qualifying."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Winning at Twin Ring Motegi means everything. It's like an Indianapolis 500. This is Honda's track. They've been trying to win this race for seven years. They've been close every year, so it means everything. This is the last race of the 3.5-liter engine, so if one of us wins, I think we're going to have to stand up in the museum for a week, ourselves and our cars. I'm sure you guys have an idea how important this race is for Honda and for us. We (Kanaan and Dario Franchitti) are the two oldest Honda drivers around. We've been racing for Honda forever."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): ""I am very happy to have the car we had today. I think (race engineer) John Dick and my mechanics did a great job, because at the other two races this year, we didn't have a very good car on the first day, but this time it was quite good. We improved a lot from the first session to the second session again, like at Phoenix. I think I could have done a better time in the second session, but I cut a tire in the first session, so we used our second set of tires. I am very confident for this race, and I am very happy to drive and enjoy this track."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal-Letterman BEA Systems Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Actually, I wasn't expecting our No. 17 team to be this good right away. I was new to the team and the track, and the team is new to the series. But after the very first lap, I felt that the car was very, very good, and I was comfortable. Team Rahal and Honda did all of the hard work to give me a strong car. This car had not run until this morning, so I was shocked that everything went so well. I don't have 100 laps on the car yet, but it feels fantastic. Working with Buddy (Rice) and Roger (Yasukawa) is a big help, too. I'm looking forward to Friday and Saturday very much. This is a good team."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "I think we are looking very good with the three cars. We are able to exchange information, and that is much different than before for me. It's a huge help for our team. Having teammates puts everyone on the same page. It's a big help to have all of Team Rahal's resources concentrated on one series. It was spread out before with the different series, and I think you see that now we are running together, too. The Honda motor is very strong, and that shows how hard the Honda guys have worked. They have done the same on the new 3.0-liter engine, too. It's great to see all of the Honda cars up front on the chart."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I am very pleased where we ended the day today. We made great gains between the morning and afternoon sessions. Andy (Borme), my engineer, made some really good changes, and the Delphi crew worked really hard. We hope to keep gaining momentum and finish tomorrow's qualifying in the top 10 which will put us in a great position to go racing on Saturday."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I can't remember what happened. I was cautious as I was on a new set of cold tires, but suddenly, I lost it."

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "We had a really good day with the new Sammy team. This crew is very professional and experienced. I did race last year but I am learning, and guys like Don Halliday (chief engineer) and Dennis Swan (crew chief) are great to give me their insight. The car feels good, and now we want to fine tune it for qualifying and the race. We were able to do some race-trim setup, and now we can look over the data and improve the car for Friday. It feels very good to be back in a car after sitting out for about seven months. Having teammates is good, too. I didn't have the advantage of that situation last year, and it is good to talk with Buddy and Vitor about the car. It is always better to use everyone's information."


FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Indy Racing League garage opens
9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
12:30 p.m. IndyCar Series MBNA Pole Qualifying
3:45 p.m.- 4:15 p.m. IndyCar Series warmup


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske