INDIANAPOLIS, May 9, 2003 - Marlboro Team Penske is hedging their bets for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, as their two drivers, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran have decided to qualify tomorrow with different chassis with...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 9, 2003 - Marlboro Team Penske is hedging their bets for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, as their two drivers, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran have decided to qualify tomorrow with different chassis with one another.
That decision, announced this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pretty much negates the advantages of having a two-car team, as Castroneves and de Ferran won't be able to share information following their practice and qualifying runs.
Team owner Roger Penske acknowledged "this has certainly been a different month for us, if you compare it to 2001 and 2002," he said. "The competition is going to be very tough, with probably eight or nine people that can be on pole. So that's a different scenario for us," Penske noted.
"So I guess we're kind of splitting the deck. Helio will stick with the Dallara which he's run in all the races and Gil will run the Panoz G Force. There wasn't any clear distinction that would have made both drivers go in the same direction, so that is pretty good validation that you have two solid car manufacturers" supplying the field at the Brickyard.
Penske acknowledged the team couldn't find much difference between the two chassis. "There's a much closer tolerance between the two vehicles, so we have the opportunity to evaluate that."
De Ferran feels 100% recovered from his nasty Phoenix crash in March and alluded to "two processes to go through" here in Indianapolis. "First, I need to get myself back up to speed. I have to admit to you that after the first day of practice, I didn't feel like I was driving particularly well. On the second day, everything clicked and I had a good feelings for the car again."
Despite being quick in both vehicles, CART's 2000-2001 champion decided he'd prefer to drive the Panoz G Force for the balance of the month of May. "I ended up choosing the G Force because, you know, we were a little bit faster on that car."
Castroneves, after taking a tour of the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval in the #68 Dallara/Oldsmobile he used to secure his first - of two consecutive - Indy 500 wins, admitted "I feel more comfortable with the Dallara. For me, something, the car was going more comfortable. I was able to feel much better during all four corners, able to translate better for the engineers. For sure, the Dallara in my case came to be the best option."
De Ferran was impressed by how close the two cars were on the track. "We really tried to analyze both cars from all sorts of different perspectives, qualifying, race trim and everything else. If I had a month to think about it, I'll probably take the extra month," de Ferran laughed. "I was surprised by how quickly I was able to get up to speed in the G Force and ultimately that ended up being our choice."