De Ferran Best In The West
February 8, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
De Ferran's best lap on the 1-mile oval was 20.0407 seconds, 179.634 mph during the afternoon session in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. That speed was nearly 2 mph faster than the MBNA Pole speed recorded last year by Greg Ray.
“Marlboro Team Penske is having a good test here in Phoenix,” said de Ferran, who comes to the IRL after winning the CART FedEx Championship Series title the last two years. “We're building on our experience from previous tests and spent the day working on general handling characteristics. We're going through our preparation routine and doing our homework. We're trying really hard to understand what we need to be fast right out of the box. We've got another day to go, so we'll see where we stand at the end of the day tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves, de Ferran's teammate, was second overall at 20.0752, 179.326, during the afternoon in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Rookie Tomas Scheckter continued to impress as he auditioned for the second seat at Red Bull Cheever Racing, turning the third-fastest lap of the day, 20.2575, 177.712, in the afternoon in the team's No. 52 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
“Everybody warned me beforehand about this circuit and that it would take two days to learn, but I think I got back into it very quickly,” said former Jaguar Racing test driver. “The thing is, the car is very good, and the Red Bull Cheever Racing team is working well. All the settings we try improve the car, and that is just allowing me to go quicker in the car and build confidence.”
Friday's session was the first of the two-day stop at Phoenix, following the IRL's earlier week session at California Speedway.
For potential rookies like Scheckter, the differences between the two tracks are monumental.
"Obviously, it is a lot shorter and more physical,” Scheckter said. “You have to be more precise. You have to be much smoother and a lot more accurate. You can't get it wrong, and you can't afford for the car to be wrong, otherwise you'll be in the wall. There were a couple of times today that it got loose on me, or it was pushing, and I started seeing that wall come at me pretty quickly. You just have to take that into consideration and get the car right. It's a big jump from Fontana.”
The test winds up Saturday at Phoenix with another day-long session.