Race No. 1
Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami
| Now It's Time To Race |
Teams Make Final Preparations For Season Debut
By Jim DeFord
Homestead, Florida Spring Training is just a memory as the teams prepare to launch the 1997 CART PPG World Series of 17 races covering three continents.
The track has changed slightly from when the cars were here last year. The corners have been made slightly wider to hopefully allow for more passing and also from the safety standpoint of simply giving the cars a little more elbow room on this rectangular oval.
Another change you will see when to cars take to the track this weekend is the new wing-configuration for oval courses longer than one-mile. The cars will be using the smaller speedway wings on these courses in 1997.
There have been other aerodynamic reductions in addition to restricting the cars to 40-inches of turbo-boost at all tracks, requiring 2.0 miles-per-gallon and limiting the fuel-load to 35 gallons of methanol. All these changes are meant to reduce the speeds.
But, they are still fast!
At the 1996 Spring Training Jimmy Vasser was quickest at 195.938 mph with Paul Tracy taking the pole for the race at 198.590 mph. During 1997's Spring Training it was again Jimmy Vasser taking the top spot at 195.467 mph less than a half-second off last year's pace!
At a recent open test session at Laguna Seca, Alex Zanardi unofficially eclipsed the one-lap record! So, it is very possible, even with all the rule changes, that we will see the cars even faster than in 1996. Records will most likely fall at a majority of the courses yet again in 1997.
Jimmy Vasser, wearing the champion's #1 on his car, is the defending champion of this race. It was the first win of his career and led the way to his winning the PPG Cup and a healthy $3.07 million in prize winnings.
There is no more "holding back" as some claim happens during Spring Training. It is now time for the teams to lay all their cards on the table as they begin their 17-race battle for the 1997 CART PPG Championship.