CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Team Australia race report

The new Team Australia squad led its first ever laps in the Champ Car World Series today as Alex Tagliani raced the Aussie Vineyards-sponsored machine to fourth place in the Grand Prix of Cleveland. After starting fifth, the Team Australia star...

The new Team Australia squad led its first ever laps in the Champ Car World Series today as Alex Tagliani raced the Aussie Vineyards-sponsored machine to fourth place in the Grand Prix of Cleveland.

After starting fifth, the Team Australia star held position in the opening stint before pitting on lap 28 under yellow.

After again emerging in fifth place, Tagliani received a set-back when race officials moved him back two spots at the restart, alleging he was behind Oriol Servia and AJ Allmendinger as the trio fought for position exiting pit lane.

Tagliani drove his way to fourth place before making his second stop on lap 55 under yellow and then pulled off a pass on series champion Sebastien Bourdais on the subsequent restart.

Running a fuel conservation strategy, Tagliani moved to third on lap 77, second on lap 80 and into the race lead on lap 81. Team Australia then led its first ever laps in the championship before Tagliani was forced to make a "splash and dash" fuel stop on lap 87 to make it to the finish.

Tagliani completed the race in fourth position, running behind Servia (third) and Allmendinger (second) - whom he was forced behind by race officials at the first round of pit stops. The race was won for the second year in a row by Paul Tracy.

Australian rookie Marcus Marshall was unlucky not to grab his first top ten result after his most impressive race performance to date.

After starting on the final row of the grid, Marshall dodged the opening lap, turn one, drama that delayed three cars to move into 15th spot and subsequently gained another position on the lap four restart. After the first round of pitstops, Marshall had moved up to 8th place and was actually running behind his team-mate, Tagliani.

However, three laps later he suffered a spin that put him back to 12th. Marshall continued in that position until lap 52 when race leader Cristiano da Matta made contact with the Team Australia car as Marshall battled with Timo Glock at the chicane entering the start-finish straight.

Da Matta later cleared Marshall of fault in the incident that put the former champion out of the race and sent the Australian on a slow lap back to pit lane with a flat tyre.

Undeterred, Marshall returned to the track to chase down Nelson Philippe to grab 12th place at the chequered flag.

The Team Australia squad will now head north of the border to Canada for the next round of the championship at Toronto on July 10.

WHAT IS AUSSIE VINEYARDS/TEAM AUSTRALIA? Australia will again play host to the Champ Car World Series on the streets of Surfers Paradise for the Lexmark Indy 300 from October 20-23. This year will be the first year in the event's history that a full-time Australian team will compete for glory on home soil.

Team Australia is a new Champ Car entry created for 2005 by veteran team owner Derrick Walker and Australian businessmen Craig Gore and John Fish.

The team will contest the championship with major sponsorship from Aussie Vineyards, a new Queensland company established by Gore and Fish to export Australian wine into the US market.

The pair is looking to use the program as a tool for other Australian businesses also wishing to market their products and services into the US.

ALEX TAGLIANI -- CAR #15 POSITION: 4th GAP: - 10.184 seconds

"We got a bit of a tough call at our first pit stop when the officials put me back behind Oriol and AJ. They said I was behind at the blend line but I was pretty sure I was in front. "At the last restart we went with a strategy to try to save fuel and in the end we probably needed one more lap of yellow to make it to the finish on one less stop. "The yellow never came and we had to up the pace to try to chase them down but it didn't work out for us. "It was a great call by the guys because with a bit of luck we could have won the race. "But we came away with a bunch of points and I am really proud of how hard the guys worked. "The chemistry in this team is really starting to come together and I can't wait for the next race in Toronto."

MARCUS MARSHALL -- CAR #5 POSITION: 12th GAP: 2 laps

"I could have got a top ten today, but the spin I had really dented those chances. I was up to 8th place and going through the corner exactly the same as I had done every other lap, but it lost traction and I ended up in the grass. "I lost a bunch of time getting back on the road and it took about five laps to get all the junk off my tires. I was actually being fairly conservative at the time when I spun -- maybe I should have kept attacking. "The flat tire then put me out of contention, but I do feel really good about the day. I was able to get pretty racey out there and I am sure a top ten finish is just around the corner. "It was really hot out there and I know I need to keep working on my fitness to maintain consistency in those conditions, but overall I am pretty happy."

DERRICK WALKER -- CO-OWNER, TEAM AUSTRALIA

"We might have improved a spot if we got the right call about the pit exit but overall we are pretty happy with the result. This is a very different racetrack, very aggressive. Coming in here with the Lola which we have never run here before and qualify as well as we did and race so strongly to get two strong finishes, we are very happy. "It was unfortunate for Marcus because he could have got his first top ten finish if the tangle with da Matta hadn't happened. He had a lot more confidence this weekend and raced very hard. This weekend will help him a lot and I am sure it will give him a good feeling going into Toronto."

CRAIG GORE -- CO-OWNER, TEAM AUSTRALIA

"It was great to see our car P1 towards the finish and it certainly would have been nice to keep it. But the overall result proves we are a top class team and we have the ability to win races. "Marcus's improvement this weekend was outstanding and Tag did a brilliant job -- very impressive indeed. "If somebody had said we would have lead a race so early in the season when we started at Long Beach I would have been very surprised. But I always had tremendous confidence in Derrick and the guys. I know they know what it takes to get the job done and we proved that today."

-ta-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe , Marcus Marshall , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta