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MONTEREY, Ca. (August 25, 2000) - Marlboro Team Penske's Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) established a new unofficial course record Friday in the final day of a two-day CART open test at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Castroneves, who has claimed two FedEx Championship Series victories this season and currently sits eighth in the season points standings (81 points), posted a quick lap of 67.602 sec. (119.180 mph) in today's afternoon session. The previous track record at Laguna Seca was set in 1997 by Bryan Herta, who turned a lap of 67.895 sec. (118.666 mph) to claim the pole position for that season's CART event.

"I'm kind of surprised really," said Castroneves after learning that he'd established the record. "Our goal was to come here today and go faster than (Thursday's) time and I guess we did that. We worked to get the car where it needed to be and now the car is really, really fast."

Despite the record-setting effort and the fact that Castroneves posted the third-fastest time in Thursday's test session, the Brazilian native said the team certainly met some challenges during the test. "We had lots of problems with the car and that's the good thing about a test like this, you're able to take the time and fix the problems," said Castroneves. "If this had happened on race weekend it would've been very tough for us."

Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), Castroneves' teammate, recorded the second-fastest lap at the test. He posted a time of 67.896 sec. (118.664 mph) to top Friday's morning session.

"We're in pretty good shape," said de Ferran. "We tried a lot of things that we set out to try and the most important thing is that we tested well here over the two days which bodes well for the race weekend."

The Champ Cars return to Laguna Seca on September 10 to compete in the 16th round of the FedEx Championship Series, the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300.

After setting the pace with the top time in Thursday's session, Patrick Carpentier (Player's Indeck Ford Reynard) finished with the third-best time overall for the test with a lap of 68.477 sec. (117.657 mph), established Friday morning.

"It was a good test," said Carpentier. "The team's happy, I'm happy. The car's pretty stable so I think we're going to have a good weekend when we come back here for the race."

Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Mercedes Reynard) had the fourth-best time at the test with a lap of 68.576 sec. (117.487 mph) while current series points leader Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) completed the top five after turning a lap of 68.669 sec. (117.328 mph).

Tony Kanaan and the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes-Benz Reynard enjoyed a relatively trouble-free second consecutive day of testing at Laguna Seca Raceway today, finishing with the third-fastest time in the afternoon and the fourth-fastest time overall. Kanaan toured the 
2.238-mile hillside road course in 1 minute, 8.635 seconds (an average of 117.386 mph) in this afternoon’s session to conclude the two-day CART FedEx Championship Series open test on a high note. Some 23 cars took part in all. In the morning, Kanaan recorded a 1:08.576 (117.487 mph) fast lap. 

TONY KANAAN - “Hey, what do you know ... we got our first podium of the year in that afternoon session! That’s a good feeling to have on your way out of town. Things went very smoothly today and I have to say I’m really looking forward to coming back in a couple of weeks. We’ve made some big gains with our motor program, which showed today, and the guys have really brought the chassis along, too. We tried a few things for the afternoon’s session and, sure enough, they worked. I’ve got to head down to Brazil now for a Hollywood event the next few days, but I can’t wait to get back on the plane and make my way to Vancouver for next weekend’s race. Then it’s back here at Laguna. I’ve had some good runs here over the years and we built up some pretty good momentum that I hope will carry us through.” (Note: Kanaan qualified second here last year for Forsythe Championship Racing, his second-best career start, and he won here from the pole in Indy Lights competition in 1996, followed by a runner-up finish from the pole in his Indy Lights championship season of 1997.) 

PacWest Racing’s Mark Blundell finished in the top eight and youngster Scott Dixon again produced improved lap times in the second day of the CART open test at Laguna Seca Raceway today. 

Blundell, driver of the #18 Motorola PacWest Mercedes-Benz, produced a best lap time of 1:08.763 at an average speed of 117.168mph in what was one of the best testing performances for Mercedes-Benz campaigners this year. The experienced Englishman was setting himself for an even quicker lap in the afternoon session when he was caught out with an adjusted ride-height on the curb at turn five – he was left a passenger as his car hit the wall and damaged the front left corner ending his day. 

It was a solid two days of qualifying for the regular PacWest Champ Car drivers after Mauricio Gugelmin set the fourth-fastest time of 1:09.315 at an average speed of 116.235mph around the challenging 2.238-mile venue yesterday. 

Dixon was 17th-fastest for the second consecutive day with a time of 1:09.582 – 0.840 of a second than his effort from yesterday. 

The 20 year New Zealander, who was driving in his first Champ Car open test did 40-odd laps in the morning before his car was given a scheduled engine change. The afternoon was plagued with red flag conditions and the youngster only got in another dozen laps before he ran out of track time. 

“I think we made some progress today and gave ourselves a reasonable baseline for when we race here in a couple of weeks time,” said Blundell. 
“We worked on a combination of several different and new things. 
“I feel more confident about coming back here in a couple of weeks than I was before the test. I think we could have gotten down into the low 68s if the ride height had not caught me out.” 

“”Basically I was pretty happy with the way everything went and really enjoyed myself,” said Dixon. 
“It would have been nice to do a few more laps this afternoon, but that’s the way it goes. 
“I managed to get up to speed reasonably quickly today and it was nice to improve my time, although track conditions would have had a bit to do with that. Physically I fell OK, I am a little sore in a few areas, especially around the shoulders where the belts came down. Everyone did a lot to make me feel comfortable and I think we actually got a lot achieved.” 

The remainder of the best laps from the two-day test were as follows: 

Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), 68.707 sec. (117.263 mph); 

Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), 68.734 sec. (117.217 mph); 

Mark Blundell (Motorola Mercedes Reynard), 68.763 sec. (117.168 mph); 

Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Reynard), 68.789 sec. (117.123 mph); 

Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), 68.803 sec. (117.100 mph); 

Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Mercedes Lola), 68.892 sec. (116.948 mph); 

Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), 68.941 sec. (116.865 mph); 

Alex Tagliani (Player's Indeck Ford Reynard), 69.004 sec. (116.758 mph); 

Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), 69.080 sec. (116.630 mph); 

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), 69.197 sec. (116.433 mph); 

Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel Mercedes Reynard), 69.315 sec. 116.235 mph); 

Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State Ford Reynard), 69.375 sec. (116.134 mph); 

Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), 69.494 sec. (115.935 mph); 

Scott Dixon (Nextel Mercedes Reynard), 69.521 sec. (115.890 mph); 

Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), 69.600 sec. (115.759 mph); 

Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard), 69.842 sec. (115.358 mph); 

Alex Barron (SPORTSTODAY Ford Lola), 69.905 sec. (115.254 mph); 

Tarso Marques (Panasonic Ford Swift), 70.687 sec. (113.979 mph); 

Luiz Garcia Jr. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/BancoSofisa Mercedes Reynard), 70.802 sec. (113.793 mph).

A number of minor incidents interrupted testing on Friday causing 14 red flags to be displayed. The final incident involved contact between the cars driven by Castroneves and Fittipaldi, which ended the afternoon session prematurely by approximately five minutes. Over the course of the two-day test there were 25 red-flag incidents with no injuries to any of the drivers.

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