Friday pm practice: De Ferran again

Honda power was back in force at Toronto as Gil de Ferran paced both Friday Champ Car practice sessions and Honda cars took five of the top six spots

Friday pm practice: De Ferran again

De Ferran and his Penske Racing team mate Helio Castroneves ran 1-2 in the Friday morning session, but Castroneves failed to complete a lap in the afternoon after his Honda engine broke on his out lap. Because he had already changed cars twice in the morning session, Castroneves was unable to commandeer his spare for the remainder of the afternoon, so he was rendered a spectator as his team mate dominated the action.

De Ferran, who set the Toronto track record in 1999 with a lap of 57.143 seconds, got down to 58.400 seconds on Friday afternoon as track conditions on the 1.755-mile temporary circuit improved.

"I like street circuits in general," remarked the defending CART champion. "They're usually fun, and it's challenging to go fast. The track was very slippery at first, and the conditions are constantly changing, so you're really trying something new every time out.

"We have a very good street course set-up that obviously is working very well here in Toronto," de Ferran added. "But there are a lot of guys who will be working hard to beat us in qualifying. My car handled very well right off the truck, and my only problem was hitting a wall near the end of the morning session, which wrecked a front wing. That wasn't very clever."

De Ferran's closest pursuer on Friday was Christian Fittipaldi, who was clocked at 58.636 seconds in the Newman/Haas Lola-Toyota. Fittipaldi was the only non-Honda driver in the top six.

"I'm pretty happy, because the car feels good and you can win this race if you're in the top four or six," he said.

Fittipaldi was discouraged by the form of the Honda cars, which saw their performance improved because CART's controversial 3/4-inch pop-off valve spacer has been shelved for the Toronto weekend.

"We can run a one-inch spacer or a two-inch spacer and it doesn't affect our Toyota engine," he remarked. "Our power is as good as it has been all year, and I don't think we're at any kind of a disadvantage on a street course."

Dario Franchitti, who was third on Friday in the Team Green Reynard-Honda, was forthright in assessing the disadvantage the spacer created for the Honda cars for the last three races.

"At Portland, we couldn't get within 4mph of anyone else in the speed traps," he said. "Even then, we were trimming the car out to the maximum, and when you have to do that, something is wrong. Now the trap speeds are similar again, and it's nice to be back on a level playing field."

Franchitti's day ended about five minutes early when he collided with Memo Gidley in Turn 6.

"Memo had just come out of the pits, and I honestly think he just didn't see me," Dario reported. "The collision bent a few components in the front suspension, but nothing major. The car's fine.

"Qualifying is going to be very interesting, as it always is here," added Franchitti, who won at Toronto in 1999. "This track improves with every lap, and it's at its best for the very last lap. Plus, there are a lot of guys in with a shot."

Tony Kanaan was fourth fastest in the first Mo Nunn entry, while Franchitti's Team Green mates Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy ran fifth and sixth. The top 10 was rounded out by Cristiano da Matta (Toyota), Alex Tagliani (Ford), Max Papis (Ford), and Adrian Fernandez (Honda).

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