Welcome back to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from the scenic hills of Monterey, California, for CART FedEx Championship Series qualifying! The Champ Cars will once again follow the new qualifying format introduced in 2002 this weekend. Gone are the days of divided qualifying groups, as the 2002 season brings all Champ Cars on course in a single session that will require drivers to race for their starting position in Sunday's race.
2002 QUALIFYING FORMAT: The return of Friday qualifying at street circuits and road courses and a revised qualifying procedure will see the fastest driver from each day of qualifying awarded a championship point. Each race's pole winner will again be determined by the fastest lap of both Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions, but the provisional pole winner will be guaranteed a front row starting spot regardless of the outcome of final qualifying.
Additional qualifying enhancements include the establishment of a maximum of 15 timed laps per session with a guaranteed 45 minutes (of a 60 minute session) of green flag time at road course events. Additionally, all cars will qualify in one group. The penalty for creating a red flag situation in road course qualifying has also been changed. Drivers causing such conditions will now lose their fastest lap in that session rather than be parked for eight minutes in the pits as has been the case the last few seasons. The practice of carry-over penalties to the next race has also been abolished.
In the morning practice session #6 DA MATTA was fastest with a 1:10.083-second lap (114.961 mph).
CART FedEx Championship Series Starter Jim Swintal displays the GREEN FLAG at 2:10 p.m. The Champ Cars now have the option to take the track for the first qualifying session.
At 2:25 p.m., #52 NAKANO is first out.
At 2:27 p.m., #52 NAKANO comes right back in after a quick tour of the 2.238-mile course. #55 DOMINGUEZ is out along with #22 PAPIS.
At 2:30 p.m., #52 NAKANO returns with #39 ANDRETTI and #26 TRACY.
At 2:33 p.m., #22 PAPIS is fastest with a lap of 1:11.327 seconds (112.956 mph) on his fourth lap.
At 2:36 p.m., #6 DA MATTA takes the course. #51 FERNANDEZ is being watched for leaking fluid.
At 2:37 p.m., #51 FERNANDEZ tops the speed chart with a lap of 1:11.300 (112.999 mph).
At 2:38 p.m., #10 KANAAN takes the provisional pole with a 1:11.165 (113.766 mph).
At 2:40 p.m., #10 KANAAN improves his time to a 1:10.819 (113.766 mph). Now it's #20 BELL on top with a 1:10.804 (113.790 mph).
At 2:41 p.m., #6 DA MATTA takes the top spot with a 1:10.733 (113.904 mph). #20 BELL goes faster the next time by with a 1:10.721 (113.924 mph).
At 2:42 p.m., #6 DA MATTA retakes the spot with a 1:10.240 (114.704 mph). #12 BRACK moves to second fastest with a 1:10.419 (114.412 mph).
At 2:45 p.m., #32 CARPENTIER turns the second fastest lap of the session with a 1:10.374 (114.485 mph).
At 2:50 p.m., #6 DA MATTA still sits on the provisional pole position, followed by #32 CARPENTIER, #12 BRACK, #4 JUNQUEIRA and #11 FITTIPALDI.
At 2:51 p.m., #12 BRACK takes the top spot with a 1:10.212 (114.750 mph) on his eighth lap of the session.
At 3:01 p.m., #26 TRACY spins in Turn 6, keeps his foot in it while rotating the car all the way around and continues on course without stalling the engine.
At 3:01 p.m., #6 DA MATTA takes the provisional pole back with a lap of 1:10.103 seconds (114.928 mph). #44 DIXON is off and on in Turn 6.
At 3:05 p.m., #12 BRACK regains the top spot with a 1:10.066 (114.989 mph). #6 DA MATTA has reached the 15 timed-lap limit in the session.
CHECKERED FLAG at 3:09 p.m., #32 CARPENTIER contacts the wall exiting Turn 10 and ends the session. #32 CARPENTIER is out of the car under his own power as the Simple Green CART Safety Team attends to his machine that has a fair amount of right rear damage. #12 BRACK earns a championship point with his fast time of 1:10.066 (114.989 mph).
Bridgestone Tire engineers report that track temperatures ranged from 107° to 111° F and air temperature from 67° to 79° F during the first session of Champ Car qualifying at Mazda Raceway.
CHAMP CAR PROVISIONAL TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES
KENNY BRACK: (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): I personally like the new qualifying rules. They allow me to sleep in tomorrow because I still have a front row starting spot on Sunday. We made some good decisions regarding the car and our engineers made some positive changes as well. So to be on the provisional pole feels great for us. The Target team is just looking to improve tomorrow. (On the addition of Scott Dixon to Target Chip Ganassi Racing) The structure of our team is such that it allows us to accommodate another car because of the amount of people we have and the facility we work out of. As far as Scott goes, I think he will definitely add depth to the team along with much needed information--just as long as he stays behind me.
CRISTIANO DA MATTA: (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): I'm certainly happy to be back on the road courses. Our car at Milwaukee was better than our car at Motegi, so things are looking better for us and we continue to improve all the time. We've tested here and have been fairly successful so we are looking forward to tomorrow's final qualifying session.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): The run we had today wasn't too bad. On the last lap I had two wheels off near Turn 4 and then it came around on me obviously in Turn 10. But I was telling myself to push and I went off. The traction control really did its job, but oh well, they told me the time I turned was good. Actually, the car doesn't have a lot of damage. It should be easily fixed because there are so many Reynards around these days. (On being one of the few drivers running a Reynard chassis) I really feel they are just as competitive as the Lola. Our test at Mid-Ohio helped a lot. The car is either at the back or the front of the pack so far this season. Overall, I think the Reynard is a very good, competitive car.
This concludes the CART FedEx Championship Series pit notes for Friday, June 7, 2002 from historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We'll see you tomorrow morning for more Real Racing. Real Sport, as the Champ Cars come to life again in the 1011:15 a.m. practice session. Good night!