Surfers Paradise, Australia — With rain pelting the temporary street circuit, Jimmy Vasser was fastest during practice Friday for CART's Honda Indy 300.
Drivers had about 45 minutes to make their first run around the 2.75-mile circuit before showers hit the course. Heavier rain in the afternoon all but wiped out the 90-minute practice for Sunday's race.
A rule change this season eliminated the first of two rounds of qualifying on road and street courses and made the first day all practice. In the past, a provisional pole winner would have been declared after Friday's first qualifying session.
Today, there will be split 30-minute qualifying sessions, with better weather expected.
The top drivers in the points race including CART FedEx leader Gil de Ferran, second-place Kenny Brack and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will be in the final group.
Vasser, Adrian Fernandez and Castroneves had the fastest times in Friday morning's practice.
Vasser, who won the 1996 Australian Indy race, was timed in 1 minute, 36.911 seconds, an average speed of 103.827 mph.
"We had a pretty good idea the rain was coming, so we went out there quick," said Vasser, whose previous best qualifying position this year has been fourth. He'll be in the first group out Saturday in qualifying.
Castroneves was timed in 1:36.997. Fernandez, who came from 17th place to win last year's Gold Coast race, was next at 1:37.442.
"You have to put up with what you have," Fernandez said of the shortened practice. "There was just too much water on the track and we didn't want to take many chances."
De Ferran had no practice time. He has helped his cause in the past six weeks with two wins at Houston and in England to end a yearlong victory drought. He was third at Laguna Seca in California on Oct. 14.
Brack trails de Ferran by 26 points with two races to go and has the only realistic chance of catching the defending series champion. Castroneves, de Ferran's Marlboro Penske Honda Reynard teammate, is in third place, 38 points behind de Ferran.