IRL: Teams wrap up busy week of private testing

IRL IndyCar Series testing wraps up at Homestead-Miami. de Ferran, Takagi turn first laps in 2003 equipment. HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Jan. 10, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series teams and drivers finished three days of private testing Jan. 10 ...

IRL IndyCar Series testing wraps up at Homestead-Miami. de Ferran, Takagi turn first laps in 2003 equipment.

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Jan. 10, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series teams and drivers finished three days of private testing Jan. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the 2003 IndyCar Series season.

Gil de Ferran and Tora Takagi turned their first laps using 2003 IndyCar Series chassis and engines Jan. 10 along with other drivers de Ferran, a resident of nearby Fort Lauderdale, Fla., turned laps in his new Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

"I think for us it's quite a change, not only with the car, but it's also a completely new design from Dallara, a new gearbox, a new chassis, new suspension, new dynamics and a new engine, using Toyota this year," de Ferran said. "We're using these first few tests to understand the new car better. This is a preseason routine to better understand what we need to do for the year." de Ferran would like nothing better than to score a win at a track close to his home.

"Psychologically, it's great to have the season opener here; it's next to my home, friends and family," de Ferran said. "Hopefully this year will be a good one, and I'll be able to win my very first Homestead race."

Takagi, 28, from Shizuoka, Japan, will drive his first season in IndyCar Series competition for Mo Nunn Racing. His test of a 2003 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone marked the first time Takagi had driven an IndyCar Series car.

His debut run came after a tough day of travel to the 1.5-mile oval.

"I think it was a good half-day of work after the difficult time we had getting to Homestead to begin with," Takagi said. "I was in Las Vegas on Thursday for a Pioneer appearance, and I was supposed to be in Miami by about midnight on Thursday night. I was looking forward to a full day in the new Mo Nunn Pioneer car on Friday. But the airline canceled my flight, and I didn't end up getting to Homestead until lunchtime today. But the team was ready for me, and I went right to work.

"First, I drove the 2002 G Force just to get a feel for an IRL car because I never drove one before. I did a total of about 40 laps. Then I got into the 2003 car with the Toyota engine, and the first thing I realized was that the car had a lot more power. That made me very happy. It didn't take long to adapt to the style of the IRL machine. I had no difficulties getting used to it. My main intention was to make sure the team left with the car in one piece. We will have plenty of testing to come, and I can say that I am very pleased with what I experienced today."

Also testing 2003 equipment on Jan. 10 were two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., driving a Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp driving Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, and 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone in the Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

"It was a lot better today," Giaffone said. "We finally found the right direction where we need to be headed. We have a lot more work to do, but at least we found the right direction. I was happy with the whole day. I drove the first half in the new car, and (teammate) Tora (Takagi) drove the other half in the new car.

"One nice thing we learned today is that at least we're talking the same language. I know he's Japanese, and I'm Brazilian, but we are both complaining about the same things and speaking favorably about the same things. It seems we have fairly similar driving styles, and that's a good thing when you want to get things done in a hurry. His feeling for the car and getting around the track seems to be just like mine. I was happy to meet him and get to know him today."

Tomas Scheckter, winner of the 2002 Michigan Indy 400, tested a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, while Buddy Rice turned laps in a Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"We are on a steep learning curve with the new Dallara chassis and Chevy motor, but we learned a lot of new things in this test," Rice said. "We are just working hard at understanding the ins and outs of our new Red Bull car.

"It was a wide-open test. Some guys were working on qualifying setup, some on their motors and some on race setup. At a test like this, it is hard to see 100 percent where we are. We are focused on our program, not everyone else. Everyone has their own agenda."

The season-opening Toyota Indy 300 will take place March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

For Toyota Indy 300 ticket information, call (305) 230-RACE or log on to www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Tora Takagi , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing