All Rookies Pass Indy Test
April 16, 2001 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Bruno Junqueira, a rookie in the CART Series this season, recorded the fastest lap of the two-day test on Saturday morning with a lap of 40.9132 seconds, 219.978 mph, besting Helio Castroneves' lap of 41.0202 seconds, 219.877 mph also turned on Saturday.
"I'm happy about our performance today," said Junqueira. "This test was very good for both me and the team. We were able to do some long runs and get a feel for how the car reacts as the fuel load goes down."
Castroneves was excused from the testing sessions, but the CART veteran said he wanted to get a good look at the world famous speedway early.
"You have to respect this place. We aren't kidding here,” he said. “We are above 200 mph and we will be there, at least. The angles of the turn, if you have a big crash, it's not going to be a nice and smooth hit. It's better to walk down the pits rather than not walk at all. So far, I'm OK with that."
Castroneves had a bit of a scare on the first day of the test sessions when he took Turn 1 a little too fast and almost slammed into the wall. He was able to save the car from an accident, but afterward he admitted he misjudged the track.
"I learned that you have to be careful with the weather," said Castroneves, a Brazilian . "The warmer weather changed everything. I had a moment out there, which is why I have to keep working. The car was pretty good. I was running 218 mph and was running almost flat for a flat-out lap. All of a sudden, the rear got out from under me. It was a little moment. A big moment, actually. I didn't even have a voice to talk to the team. I was sideways. It was enough to catch your breath."
Nicolas Minassian also had a “moment” of his own on Friday, when he crashed into the wall and checked himself into a hospital. Minassian was later released, but he was only able to complete 21 laps over the course of the weekend.
Other drivers completing their tests were Cory Witherill, Brandon Erwin, Shigeaki Hattori, Didier André, Felipe Giaffone and Jon Herb.
The rookie tests have been mandatory for new drivers since 1936. Drivers are required to complete three of the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program before they're cleared to begin practice during the month of May.
Drivers were required to complete 10 laps at each of the speed phases - 195-200 mph; 200-205 mph; 205-210 mph; more than 210 mph - while showing control of the car under the eye of veteran Indy Racing observers including Al Unser, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
Opening Day for the 85th Indianapolis 500 is May 6, while MBNA Pole Day will take place May 12. Bump Day is May 20, and Coors Carb Day is May 24. The 85th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 27.