IRL: Sears Point: Panoz Friday report

Panoz balance helps Team Target to top spots in Infineon practice SONOMA, CA - Target Chip Ganassi Racing looked like it had found the magic touch today, as practice for the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix on Infineon Raceway Sears Point's ...

Panoz balance helps Team Target to top spots in Infineon practice

SONOMA, CA - Target Chip Ganassi Racing looked like it had found the magic touch today, as practice for the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix on Infineon Raceway Sears Point's 2.26-mile, 12-turn road course began in earnest.

Rookie Ryan Briscoe nabbed the top practice slot in his #33 Target/Pioneer Panoz/Toyota/Firestone racer in the afternoon split session at 108.130, setting that speed on his 11th of 17 total laps over the half-hour period. "Certainly the Panoz chassis works very well on road racing circuits and today it's been a great car to drive," he declared.

Briscoe had been quick in April testing on the Infineon road course and led 43 laps in the Indy Racing League's first street race in St. Petersburg early last April. "Yes this place is physically demanding," the Australian noted, "but that's just a part of it. The fast blind turns are very challenging and they keep you working hard. The important thing is to keep the car very balanced everywhere around the track and add the corners together," he revealed.

Teammate Scott Dixon brought the #9 Target Panoz/Toyota to fourth place overall at 107.670mph on his ninth of 11 laps this afternoon. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion "knew we'd be pretty strong here after the test in April so I'm pretty happy. This result has really lifted everybody's thoughts and spirits and it makes it a lot easier to work," Dixon said.

Recruiting a road race specialist isn't normally done in the Indy Racing League, but Team Target brought in GP2 racer Giorgio Pantano to contest this weekend's Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix and next month's contest on the Watkins Glen International circuit. Pantano was quick out of the box and his morning lap - fastest of all 21 drivers at 107.620mph - stood for fifth overall.

The Italian, who tested his new #10 Target Panoz/Toyota on the Infineon circuit a couple of days ago for the first time thought the day "went quite well. I was just really getting a feel for the Panoz Indy car and trying to understand it better," he said. "We expect to be competitive this weekend and the goal is to be up front."

The Indy cars have had warm, sunny conditions for practice and more of the same is expected for mid-day qualifying tomorrow. As the fastest driver today, Briscoe can either lead the field into time trials or choose the final qualifying position. He said the team would make that choice once the conditions - and morning practice - have been evaluated.

-emt

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Giorgio Pantano , Scott Dixon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing