Matsuura Tops Tuesday
May 12, 2004 | 9:02 A.M. EST
As co-owner of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, he watched Kosuke Matsuura post the fastest lap speed of the three days of practice for the 88th Indianapolis 500 at 221.857 mph (40.5666 seconds) in the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone.
As owner-driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, Fernandez was right behind the IRL IndyCar® Series rookie with a fast lap of 221.705 mph (40.5944 seconds).
“What can I say? A fantastic day for the team,” said Fernandez, who was third quick on Opening Day and fifth on May 11. “We were strong all day.”
The consistency is welcome after a rough start to his full-time IndyCar Series career, in which he did not complete a lap in the Copper World Indy 200 on March 21 (gearbox) and retired on Lap 184 (engine) in the Indy Japan 300 on April 17. Fernandez will attempt to qualify for his third Indianapolis 500, and his first since 1995.
“The engineers are doing a great job and everyone on the team, and we just have to keep the momentum all month because we are still the early stages,” said Fernandez, who sat atop the speed chart most of the day.
Matsuura became the third practice leader in as many days at the historic 2.5-mile oval. After posting his quickest lap to date at 219.818 mph about noon (EDT), Matsuura returned to the track briefly at 3:50 p.m. but returned to the garage for changes shortly afterward. He went out for his final run at 5 p.m. and recorded the top speed on Lap 53 of his daily workout.
“I put on new tires, and after two laps I had the quickest time,” Matsuura said. “Then my engineer told me to come to the pit box. I could have made a better lap, but it wasn’t necessary. Today is just Tuesday.
“We just have to work on our qualifying car so we have something in our pocket. We had a lot of fuel in the car, about half a tank, not like our qualifying configuration. I think in qualifying configuration, we can have about 222 or 223 (mph laps). The car is very good.
"Adrian and I, both our cars were very quick and very strong, which is good.”
Matsuura, who leads the IndyCar Series rookie point standings after an eighth- and two 11th-place finishes, said everything is coming together.
“So far, since Rookie Orientation (April 26), my car has been very consistent,” Matsuura said. “I had a couple of problems, but today we put together engine, set-up, driver and everything, and we made 221 miles per hour.”
Tony Kanaan, who has a victory and second-place finish in his past two IndyCar Series starts, was third on the speed chart for the second day in a row (220.855 mph; 40.7507 seconds).
"We struggled a little bit in the morning with the Team 7-Eleven car and then found ourselves late in the afternoon," he said. "I feel more confident than (May 10), for sure. I think we’re on the right track and now we just need to chase the speed.”
Helio Castroneves, who topped Day 2 practice at 220.300 mph, was fourth at 219.937 mph (40.9208 seconds). Bryan Herta moved from 14th on May 11 to fifth quick (219.909 mph; 40.9261 seconds) in the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.
"We made some good gains with the feel of the XM Satellite Radio car and that is the key early in the week, getting the car to feel the way I want," Herta said. "We still haven't been working on a trimmed out race car yet. Indy always feels better when you're going faster. That little bit of extra speed gives you a little more downforce and a little more grip. You know the faster you go, the better it feels."
Thirty-one driver-car combinations totaled 1,171 laps. Mark Taylor, in the No. 2T Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, recorded the most laps of the day with 115.
There was one incident. Felipe Giaffone, in the No. 24T Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, scraped the Turn 4 wall at 5:03 p.m. He had just turned a lap of 215.542 mph. Giaffone, who replaced the retired Robbie Buhl in the seat before the IndyCar Series Open Test at the Speedway on April 28-29, was checked in the infield medical center and cleared to drive.
Marty Roth spun in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 in the morning, but his No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone did not make contact with the wall.