IRL: St. Pete: Panoz Saturday report

Tough St Petersburg qualifying runs for IRL Panoz drivers ST PETERSBURG, April 2, 2005 - It was a difficult qualifying day for Panoz troops in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series' first street course time trials. Using a new, dual step...

Tough St Petersburg qualifying runs for IRL Panoz drivers

ST PETERSBURG, April 2, 2005 - It was a difficult qualifying day for Panoz troops in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series' first street course time trials. Using a new, dual step procedure for the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg that included the standard single car qualifying followed by a six-car shootout for Marlboro Pole Award, Panoz teams and drivers were left out of the secondary session.

Kosuke Matsuura carried the load for nine drivers utilizing the sole American designed and built IRL chassis today, earning the seventh grid slot with his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda/Firestone racer at 101.637mph. The Japanese ace's Panoz was the final car bumped from the Firestone Fast Six shootout but he was still pleased with his run.

"The Panoz was very good and I didn't make any mistakes," Matsuura explained. "That was my fastest time this weekend and I am the quickest Panoz driver," he boasted. "I am very excited for the tough race tomorrow; it will be physically difficult at 100 laps" around the 14 corners and 1.8 miles of St. Petersburg city streets. "This is my first time in a long [street/road] race and I am really looking forward to it."

Rookie Ryan Briscoe was the only other Panoz driver to crack the top ten with his spare #33 Team Target Panoz/Toyota after crashing in Friday morning practice. He'll line up tenth after posting a lap of 101.069mph, the fourth driver to take a timed lap. "I feel like I still had a little more speed in the car but I didn't quite put it all together in one lap. The team has worked really hard to get the back-up Panoz ready and I'm looking forward to getting out there tomorrow."

Panoz chief designer Simon Marshall took the results as an opportunity to "apply more development to our chassis" prior to the next road race in August at Infineon Raceway Sears Point in Sonoma, CA. "We still have to develop the car and we've got improvements on the table. At least we have until August to turn our qualifying performance around," he mused.

"It will be interesting to see how our Panoz responds to long runs tomorrow. We'll be monitoring tire wear, grip levels and balance for our nine entrants," Marshall indicated. As the three practice sessions held yesterday and today encountered multiple stoppages for various spins and contact, none of the 21 IndyCar Series entrants has had an opportunity to examine those factors cited by Marshall.

There will be half-hour morning practice before Sunday's momentous Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 100-lap endurance run that begins at 3:45PM EDT and is being carried live by ESPN in the United States.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Briscoe , Kosuke Matsuura