Diaz gets "dinged" by Allmendinger at Monterrey. Race starting punt drives Monterrey's fastest to 10th. MONTERREY, Mexico (March 24, 2003) - The weather was perfect. The race start was not, but Luis Diaz still proved to be the fastest ...
Diaz gets "dinged" by Allmendinger at Monterrey.
Race starting punt drives Monterrey's fastest to 10th.
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 24, 2003) - The weather was perfect. The race start was not, but Luis Diaz still proved to be the fastest Atlantic driver at the Toyota Atlantic Championship season opener Sunday in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.
The 32-lap (67.2 mile) race around the challenging 2.104-mile, 12-turn street circuit in Monterrey's Fundidora Park was blemished with a yellow flag start due to contact between Kyle Krisiloff and Romain Dumas during the "parade" lap. Krisiloff's car suffered irreparable damaged to its left rear suspension. This delayed an attempt for an official race start under the green flag until Lap 2.
Diaz, who started from the pole (his third career $1000 Toyota "Pole Award") with a time of 1:24.960 (89.153 mph), expertly led the 15-car field toward the Start-Finish line on Lap 2 when he was "waved off" due to outside polesitter Joey Hand attempting to "jump the start."
When Diaz accepted the green flag on Lap 3, he had hardly crossed the Start-Finish line before rookie A.J. Allmendinger recklessly swept right-to-left from his third place grid position behind Diaz and pounded his nose cone into Diaz's right rear tire. The contact punctured the tire and forced Diaz to return to pit lane. This time, Hand became a temporary beneficiary by taking the early race lead. Meanwhile, Allmendinger only suffered a paint-darkened nose cone and a brief off-course jaunt before finishing 8th place.
"I feel bad, obviously, because I believe we deserved no less than a podium finish or a victory. I drove the fastest car in the field. Unfortunately for me, Allmendinger made a move approaching the first corner that took me out of the race. I ended up with a flat tire from the contact and 10th place. I feel badly for all those who put in so much time and effort to give me a great race car. I had problems beyond my control last year at Monterrey so this is a little frustrating and bitter. We still have 11 more races and I believe that there are podiums awaiting Dorricott Racing this year.
Diaz dropped from first place to 15th during the pit stop before displaying just how fast the Dorricott Racing-prepared Telmex Swift was. Diaz passed four cars in the next 27 laps and claimed the fastest lap on Lap 27 before running even faster on Lap 30 at 84.708-seconds (89.418 mph). Diaz was the only driver in the field who had descending lap times as the race progressed.
If one excludes time lost during the pit stop, Diaz clearly ran the fastest overall race thereby suggesting a clean race start would have resulted in a victory. Diaz was the only driver to record laps under 1:25.00 and the only male driver to run faster than Atlantic rookie and female driver Danika Patrick.
Hand's day took a dramatic turn on Lap 5 when his car suffered a mechanical problem. Canadian Michael Valiante jumped on Hand's misfortune and claimed the lead on Lap 6 before holding off a late charge from fellow Canadian Jonathan Macri to win the race 0.448-seconds ahead of Macri. Patrick finished third.
Diaz scored seven championship points including six points for 10th place and one bonus point for winning the pole.
Round two of the 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship will be at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sunday, April 13.
Dorricott Racing is a year-round professional motorsports organization with its race shop located in Bakersfield, Calif.