IRL: St. Pete: Panoz Friday report

Manning leads Panoz family in St. Petersburg practice ST. PETERSBURG, April 1, 2005 - Darren Manning's experience on the 1.8-mile, 14-corner street course that comprises the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg...

Manning leads Panoz family in St. Petersburg practice

ST. PETERSBURG, April 1, 2005 - Darren Manning's experience on the 1.8-mile, 14-corner street course that comprises the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg track came in handy today as the Briton took his #10 Team Target Panoz/Toyota/Firestone challenger to fourth place in a brace of practice sessions that will determine the order for single-car qualifying tomorrow afternoon.

Pulling out an afternoon lap of 101.321mph on his 12th and final lap Manning was just a tick more than one mile per hour slower than fastest Helio Castroneves (102.721mph). "I'm pretty happy with the way today went," Manning admitted.

"My Panoz was really quick right out of the box but I feel like I left just a little on the table on my hot lap. We didn't get in a whole lot of running this afternoon, but with a little less traffic we got a bit more accomplished (in the split session). It really is fun out there and I'm looking forward to that green flag on Sunday." He raced here with the former CART series in 2003.

Brazilian Vitor Meira holds fifth place after turning 101.308mph in his #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda from the Rahal Letterman Racing stables. Meira said, "My Panoz felt really good today but the biggest challenge for me is keeping the car steady and shifting when I go across the bumps. I am literally holding on the wheel with both hands and that makes it tough to shift."

2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon earned seventh today with his #9 Team Target Panoz/Toyota at 101.131mph. The Kiwi was pleased with the endeavor: "We ran a decent amount of laps today and, with a little less traffic in the second session (where he was grouped with the "slower" cars) we got a lot of changes made and a chance to improve our time quite a bit. The Panoz feels good and we feel like we would have gone a bit faster but got a big caught up on those last few laps."

Kosuke Matsuura, whose experience includes quite a few road and street courses placed eighth for the day with his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda. The Japanese ace, 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year turned a lap of 101.108mph but was on a faster tour when Castroneves' spin ended the final practice session. "My Panoz has pretty good potential and I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow. I am so excited to race here in St. Petersburg," he giddily stated.

The Panoz family of entrants has increased by one this weekend to nine as A.J. Foyt IV is utilizing a Panoz/Toyota package for the first time this season. Foyt spent the two sessions getting accustomed to his new car and to the discipline of left and right turns, a first for the IRL.

Tomorrow's qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg will be unlike any in the Indy Racing League's 10-year history. Teams will be permitted to use tire warmers and, once all contestants have taken a warmup, timed and cool-down lap in single-car qualifying, positions 7-21 will be set. The fastest six drivers will have ten minutes to fight for the Marlboro Pole Award in a European-style shootout.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Kosuke Matsuura , Vitor Meira