Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) clocked a best lap of 22.422 sec. (165.213 mph) in the final day of open testing at Chicago Motor Speedway to lead a field of 21 drivers who participated in the two-day test session.
Speeds continued to increase today, as da Matta's quick lap was over three miles per hour faster than the fastest lap of yesterday's sessions, a 22.876 sec. (161.934 mph) lap turned by Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard). Da Matta turned his quick lap in the final session of the test this afternoon.
"I am very, very happy with the past two days," said da Matta. "We definitely have the best oval car we have ever had. This test was very good and important for us, because we were able to try many things. We need to keep this momentum going - we had a good finish last week, and a good test this week. It is very important to keep up this consistency."
Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) was second quick in the test after posting a top lap of 22.542 sec. (164.333 mph) during Friday's morning session. Like da Matta, Brack was also encouraged by his showing in the test over the past two days, and believes his team has a good baseline setup for the upcoming Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer at Chicago Motor Speedway on July 28-30.
"It was fun out there today," Brack said. "I like the track, and we learned a few things. We had an oil leak in the end, so it's too bad we had to cut it a little bit short. It was an encouraging test. We ran fast, and we ran good on the long runs. It gives us something to work from when we come back here in a few weeks."
Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Mercedes Lola) and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State Ford Lola) posted identical laps of 22.626 sec. (163.723 mph) to occupy the third and fourth spots on the final speed charts from the test. For his part, Jourdain was pleased with his performance at the test and looks forward to more of the same when he returns to Chicago in three weeks for the race.
"It was a very good day," Jourdain said. "The car ran very good, and the team did a great job. We're trying to get in the best position possible for the race. We hope to continue this in qualifying and on race day."
The remainder of the best laps from the two-day test are as follows: Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), 22.641 sec. (163.615 mph); Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), 22.653 sec. (163.528 mph); Franchitti, 22.658 sec. (163.492 mph); Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), 22.691 sec. (163.254 mph); Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), 22.699 sec. (163.197 mph); Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), 22.699 sec. (163.197 mph); Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), 22.701 sec. (163.182 mph); Mark Blundell (Nextel Mercedes Reynard), 22.882 sec. (161.891 mph); Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), 22.932 sec. (161.538 mph); Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), 23.048 sec. (160.725 mph); Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard), 23.240 sec. (159.398 mph); Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), 23.258 sec. (159.274 mph); Takuya Kurosawa (Sports Today Ford Lola), 23.306 sec. (158.946 mph); Tarso Marques (Panasonic Ford Swift), 23.444 sec. (158.011 mph); Norberto Fontana (Della Penna Motorsports Toyota Reynard), 24.561 sec. (150.824 mph); Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), 24.585 sec. (150.677 mph); Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), 24.728 sec. (149.806 mph); Fernandez (Visteon Ford Reynard), 24.837 sec. (149.148 mph).
Aside from a few mechanical problems, today's sessions were without incident. Both days of testing were open to the public, with pit and paddock access available to current CART Winner's Circle Fan Club members, as well as to those who joined the club at the track. A total of 275 Winner's Circle Fan Club members registered for entry into the test.
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