Qualifying: Penskes sandwich Franchitti

Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran will start Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500 in Motegi Japan from first and third on the grid respectively, with Team Green's Dario Franchitti in between

Qualifying: Penskes sandwich Franchitti

Castroneves was the fifth to last driver to run under CART's oval qualifying procedures, which sends drivers out in reverse order to the Vanderbilt Cup championship standings. He beat Franchitti's benchmark by 0.142 second to earn his sixth career pole and second on an oval track. But Castroneves had to sweat out four more drivers' qualifying runs, including that of his team mate de Ferran before he was confirmed as the pole winner.

"I tell you, that wait was nerve-racking," said Castroneves with a smile. "I knew that Gil had the same package as me, and that he had a good chance. Cristiano da Matta was the last to run, and I was worried that he might find a good lap. But it worked out well for us, and I'm very excited to win this pole for Honda here in Japan. They've been working very hard, and they want to win this race really badly.

"This has been a perfect weekend so far," Helio added. "My car was very fast since the start, and to be honest, I barely touched it. I thought I could do a 25.9, but in qualifying you can push a little harder. My qualifying lap (25.849 seconds/215.591 mph) was a good one."

Franchitti was fastest in Friday morning practice at Motegi, but he felt that he and the team just missed on the set-up for qualifying.

"That was a good run," said Franchitti after posting his 25.991-second (214.413mph) lap. "We had the car right on the edge this morning, and unfortunately picked up just a little bit too much understeer in Turns 3 and 4 for me to really hang it out in qualifying. It's frustrating that we didn't get the balance just right for qualifying, but we're still on the front row."

De Ferran's chance at winning the pole was compromised when CART adjudged that he exceeded the 50-mph speed limit as he exited the pit lane to begin his qualifying run. Instead of getting two qualifying laps, the penalty only left de Ferran with one.

Gil's first lap, timed at 25.993 seconds, was good for third place, 0.02 second behind Franchitti. He ran a precautionary lap after receiving the chequered flag that would have moved him ahead of Franchitti, but it didn't count. De Ferran has started from the top five in every Champ Car race at Twin Ring Motegi.

"I left my pit very slowly and accelerated out, but apparently I was going too fast by the time I reached the end of the pit lane," de Ferran commented. "The officials decided to impose a penalty, which is to take away one qualifying lap. It is in the rule book, and I did speed in the pits, so I guess it's my fault.

"The car has been very good all weekend, as Helio can attest to," de Ferran continued. "Obviously it would have been nice to have an all-Penske front row, but I'm starting up front and it bodes well for the race."

Tony Kanaan completed a 1-2-3-4 qualifying sweep for Honda, while Toyota-powered Bruno Junqueira and Ford-powered Kenny Brack were best of the rest and will start from the third row.


For qualifying results, click here.

shares
comments
Qualifying woe for Reynard-Toyota runners

Previous article

Qualifying woe for Reynard-Toyota runners

Next article

Honda CART Q&A

Honda CART Q&A
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Plus

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 8, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Plus

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be

General
Apr 21, 2021
The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan Plus

The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan

Having had the door to F1 slammed in his face and come within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500, the collapse of a Peugeot LMP1 shot meant Japan was Bertrand Baguette's last chance of a career. But it's one which he has grasped with both hands

General
Feb 27, 2021
The female all-rounder who arrived "too early" Plus

The female all-rounder who arrived "too early"

From Formula 3 to truck racing, Dakar and EuroNASCAR via a winning stint in the DTM, there's not much Ellen Lohr hasn't seen in a stellar racing career that highlights the merit in being a generalist. But she believes her career came too early...

General
Feb 17, 2021
How Radical's latest machines fare on track Plus

How Radical's latest machines fare on track

The lightweight sportscar manufacturer has not rewritten the rulebook with its latest machines, but the new SR3 XX and SR10 still provide a step forward on its previous successful models

General
Feb 8, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Plus

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them

General
Jan 31, 2021
How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory Plus

How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory

The New Zealand Grand Prix's mix of rising talent and big-name stars thrilled the crowds (yes, remember crowds?) assembled for the Toyota Racing Series meeting at Hampton Downs last weekend and left distant observers craving a repeat

General
Jan 26, 2021
How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going Plus

How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going

OPINION: The 67th edition of the Macau Grand Prix might have been a largely muted affair to the outside world without its international influx and star line-ups, another victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organisers deserve huge credit for keeping the party going

General
Nov 24, 2020