INDIANAPOLIS Ė IRL Infiniti Pro Series newcomer Marco Cioci led a field of sixteen
drivers during testing April 18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for
the inaugural Freedom 100 on May 17.
Cioci, a veteran of European Formula 3000 competition, topped the speed charts with a fastest lap of 47.8385 seconds, 188.133 mph in the No. 6 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
ďThe car is very, very fast,Ē said Cioci, from Rome. ďItís very consistent. I hope to be more comfortable in the car for the race, because itís my first time here.
ďWe worked a lot during the day to improve the car, and when I felt the car was very good, I said to my engineer, ĎThe car is perfect. We are ready to push.í We didnít use fresh tires, so Iím happy, because the car is ready for the race.Ē
Teams completed a total of 1798 incident-free laps in preparation for the third round of the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series championship, the Freedom 100. The event will mark the first time in IMS history that another automobile race will share the famed 2.5-mile oval with the Indianapolis 500 during the month of May.
Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Racing driver Jeff Simmons was second fastest overall at 47.9359, 187.751, while Infiniti Pro Series veteran Matt Beardsley rounded out the top three at 47.9595, 187.658 in the No. 12 Alpine Bank/Old Republic Land Title Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
ďWe were just doing our thing and not messing around with everybody else out there,Ē said Simmons. ďWe wanted to stay out of the draft because we wanted to learn on our own. Itís a little tough here with the wind when it changes directions. For the most part, we had a really productive day.Ē
The one-day test marked the first time the 450-horsepower cars had run in earnest at the famed Brickyard.
ďIt was an extremely successful day,Ē said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Infiniti Pro Series. ďI was delighted with the speed and reliability that we saw today. We completed almost 4500 trouble-free miles, which leads me to believe that we have optimized the aerodynamic package for this race.
ďThe drivers showed great restraint along with the speed. The top six drivers were within three-tenths of a second, and the top 10 were covered by half a second, which bodes extremely well for an exciting Freedom 100 on May 17.Ē
The IRL Infiniti Pro Series, which will conduct 12 events in 2003, serves as an essential stepping-stone for drivers striving to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel, oval-track racing in America Ė the IRL IndyCar Series.
Tickets for the inaugural Freedom 100 are $5, which is the normal Month of May practice day ticket price. The day will include the final IndyCar Series practice leading up to Bump Day, the final day of qualifying for the 87th Indianapolis 500.
IRL INFINITI PRO SERIES OPEN TEST SPEED CHART:
No. Driver Speed Total Laps
1 6 Marco Cioci 188.133 mph 106
2 20 Jeff Simmons 187.751 136
3 12 Matt Beardsley 187.658 117
4 4 Mark Taylor 187.281 107
5 36 Thiago Medeiros 187.162 100
6 91 Aaron Fike 187.155 138
7 24 Paul Dana 186.648 100
8 92 Cory Witherill 186.216 168
9 8 Ronnie Johncox 186.131 103
10 14 Ed Carpenter 186.029 69
11 9 Tom Wood 185.049 89
12 5 Arie Luyendyk Jr. 184.805 59
13 33 Jonathan Urlin 184.286 142
14 99 Brandon Erwin 183.956 66
15 27 Gary Peterson 183.480 166
16 33 Craig Dollansky 182.889 134
Total: 1798 laps
ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďIt was really good. We had a couple of hiccups, but we learned a lot. We tried a lot of different things. We feel like we have a really good starting point for when we come back for the race. Iím sure everyone is going to pick it up a little bit come race time, because this is our biggest race of the year. Everyone is going to be pulling out all of the stops, so weíre going to try and see what we can find when we go home. Weíll look at all of our data and come back with a better car.Ē (About running for Foyt at Indy): ďWe struggled the first two races, but just coming here with him brings my confidence back up. Heís just got a knack for this place. Sometimes this place is easy, but it changes a lot, too. I think heís better at reading this racetrack and keeping up with it than anyone else. I think itís a big advantage for me.Ē
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďEverybody on the Western Union Speed Team did a great job. We unloaded with a pretty good car and just made small changes all day long, trying to chip away and finding speed.Ē (About the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): ďIt was just unbelievable being out there at first. Iíve seen it for so many reasons and seen the in-car camera views, and now Iím out there and Iím like, ĎThis is exactly the same.í Itís going to be great. It was good that we all had this open test so everybody could get set for the race. Hopefully, weíll put on a great show for the fans.Ē
BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts. Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďIt was great. Itís definitely not too difficult to get around here now after running an IndyCar (Series car) here. The car felt great.Ē (About competing in the Freedom 100): ďI canít wait. Itís going to be awesome to run a race here. Itís great running around here in traffic. I think the cars are going to be very racy. We should put on a very good show. Youíll see a lot of drafting back-and-forth. I think weíll stay in a pack with the draft.Ē
MARCO CIOCI (No. 6 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďI think that I did a good job. For me, itís a great opportunity. I have a lot of emotion, because I want to win this race a lot. Iím living here, alone, in Indianapolis. Iím thinking only about this race. I know other drivers are fighting for the championship. Iím fighting for myself, and I want to win this race, not finish second. For me, itís important for my future, for the history, because itís a very important race. Thanks to Sam Schmidt and Scott Cronk, who have given me this big, big opportunity.Ē (Have you been to the Speedway before?): ďI went one week ago and bought three tickets to go around with the bus. Thatís my big experience. I think itís fantastic. So big, so fast.Ē
AARON FIKE (No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďItís awesome. Iíve been wanting to run at this place for a long time. Iíve been coming here for as long as I can remember. Since I was five or six, we used to come for qualifying and the race. Itís kind of exhilarating to know that I get to finally run here. These cars have always been really good cars, really comfortable to run. The race will definitely be interesting. Itís going to be challenging. My teammate (Cory Witherill) and I have been working together. Coryís been helping me a lot. Heís been here before, so I just let him get out in front of me and I follow him around.Ē
MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar/Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďIt was just nice to have a good test day. The important thing was getting used to this track. Itís completely different than anything else that weíre going to be running on. It was a good experience, no problems with the car and a good, quick day. It was great. It would be nice to run the IndyCar (Series car) around here, thatís for sure. Itís a special place to be, and itís great to get out there. With the amount of towing, itís going to be a good race, thatís for sure. Itíll be the first place where everyone is going to be running flat out. You might see four abreast going into one of the corners. Itíll be good, and Iím looking forward to it.Ē
THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďItís my first time here. Iím very happy. This is a very nice speedway. Itís a wonderful place. Nice corners. Pretty fun for the drivers.Ē (About Brazilian driversí success at the Indianapolis 500): ďHelio (Castroneves) won two times here at the Speedway. Maybe in a few years, I will be there, but I donít know.Ē
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďIt was a great experience. Itís an honor to be on the track. I think (the Freedom 100) will be a great event for the Infiniti Pro Series because everyone seems pretty close, time-wise. I was very surprised at all the corners being different. You have to mentally prepare yourself for each corner, because they are different. Itís more challenging than I thought it would be. I have newfound respect for the IndyCar Series drivers, because I can only imagine what it would be like going 30 or 40 miles quicker.Ē (Do you have a new respect for your father, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk?): ďDefinitely. I went around and I thought, ĎThis isnít as easy as I thought it would be.í It just seems a lot wider and a lot larger on TV. In actuality, it is a lot narrower. I definitely have a new respect.Ē
CRAIG DOLLANSKY (No. 33 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďItís great to be here. Itís an awesome place. I think itís every race car driverís dream to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It doesnít get any bigger or better than that. Itís quite overwhelming when you get here. Itís big, itís massive, and itís just great to be part of the tradition here. With this being the first race prior to the Indy 500, Iím happy to be a part of it.Ē (About his first time in an Infiniti Pro Series car): Itís my first time here, but Iím really enjoying it and really getting comfortable in the race car. Our biggest thing is that weíre coming here to get some laps and try to get up to speed and get comfortable with it. With the four different corners, I spent most of the laps out there just trying to get acclimated with the corners and trying to find the fastest way through them. I think we were gaining on that quite a bit towards the end. I was feeling real good and real comfortable. Iím looking forward to when we get ba JONATHAN URLIN (No. 33 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďYesterday, I went out with Rick Mears in a van and looked right down the straightaway. It was kind of breathtaking. You almost have to squint to see all the way down the straightaway. Iím definitely a big fan of this place. Iím so impressed. I love it here. I canít wait to run here. At the start of the day, we had to run with lots of downforce and with lots of grip. Near the end of the day, we got to free up the car, and it turned the track from a five-groove track to a two-groove track. Now that we have a stable car, the next thing is to play around in the draft here. It makes such a big difference. I only did about two laps in the draft, so thatís what weíll be working on when we come back in May.Ē
RONNIE JOHNCOX (No. 8 REV 1 Racing Special Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďWe feel real good about it. We went out and re-established that the car was put back together properly from our crash in Phoenix, which was the first priority. Then, I had a chance to go run some laps at speed. The car was real comfortable. Everything is coming together real nice.Ē (Compare the Infiniti Pro Series car and IndyCar Series car at IMS): ďDriving the car feels a little bit the same. Itís been three years since Iíve been here, so you kind of forget a little bit of the sensation of speed, but it feels a little bit slower, certainly. As far as drivability goes, it drives very similarly. Running these cars here is going to give a guy the type of experience heís going to need to run one of the other cars here. Thatís the good thing about it. I think the cars are obviously very different, but theyíre similar enough in the characteristics of the way they handle and just the feel of the racetrack that when a guy makes a step fr PAUL DANA (No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďIt was wicked to get experience around here. Itís way cool coming out of (Turn) 4 and looking at the Pagoda and the grandstands. The cars are pretty stable around here. Itís just a question of freeing up the car. You just need laps to throw stuff at the car to try to kill grip. Itís a good chance for everybody to gain experience around here. Everybody kept it off the fence, and we all got experience with the draft, too, which will be real key in the race. All in all, Iím happy.Ē
GARY PETERSON (No. 27 AFS Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďThe trackís beautiful. Itís fun to drive around the place. It takes a lot of concentration, and youíve got to be smooth. Itís just great. Iím just having a great time. The carís working good. Itís pretty exciting. Iíve been racing a long time. For me, itís always been my dream to come to Indy. Itís going to be a good show.Ē
MATT BEARDSLEY (No. 12 Alpine Bank/Old Republic Land Title Dallara/ Infiniti/Firestone): ďThe first couple of laps were great. I couldnít believe it was true. Iíve been wanting to run here since I was a little kid, ever since I can remember. Itís an awesome place. Having the four different corners is cool. I like that. Every time I pull out of pit lane, I canít believe Iím doing it. Then you get down the back straightaway, and you kind of settle in to what youíre doing. Itís great running around this place.Ē
CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): ďItís great. Itís great to get back out there. Itís been a couple of years since Iíve run around the track. Right from the beginning, I was comfortable in the first five laps. I just want to get a good setup and a good feel for this race. It would be great to go out there and win the first one here in the Pro Series. You have to treat this track with more respect than any other track. There are so many different tricks about it. Itís one of the more difficult ovals to race on. Come the month of May, Iím sure it will be a lot different, because there are going to be a whole bunch of other distractions out there, like the grandstands filled with people. Itís pretty exciting. The Hemelgarn team is doing an awesome job here, so weíll get it dialed in.Ē
TOM WOOD (No. 9 Super 8 Motels/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): ďThe track is everything everybody said it would be. Itís big, itís going to be fast once weíve got the cars trimmed out, and itís going to be great to race on. Itís probably more than I expected. Itís a neat track. This is the Super Bowl track, I guess you could say. Ē (Whatís the biggest challenge of this track?): ďProbably getting used to the size of it and going down into Turn 1. Optically, itís a little different than the other corners.Ē
RICK MEARS (Driver Coach and Consultant, IRL Infiniti Pro Series): (About advice given to drivers): ďMainly take your time, have patience. This place takes a little getting used to. Thatís what itís all about; go out there, get some miles under your belt. I point them in the right direction, what sort of pattern, what sort of line to run around here. Mainly, I have them take their time and learn all they can. Itís going well. Itís a good group of guys. They do a good job. Iím having a lot of fun working with them and watching their excitement doing things for the first time. It kind of brings back a lot of memories for me. I had a lot of help from a lot of different guys, so I just try to help them out. Theyíre doing a great job. They really are. Itís a good series. The guys are learning a lot. Thatís what itís all about.Ē
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