CHAMPCAR/CART: Dario Franchitti wins his first oval at Rockingham

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CHAMPCAR/CART: Dario Franchitti wins his first oval at Rockingham

Dario Franchitti won his first oval race at his home circuit in Great Britain. He ran near the front of the field for most of the race and benefited from a late quick pitstop to take the lead from Kenny Brack. Franchitti held off a late...

Dario Franchitti won his first oval race at his home circuit in Great Britain. He ran near the front of the field for most of the race and benefited from a late quick pitstop to take the lead from Kenny Brack. Franchitti held off a late challenge from Cristiano da Matta to cross the line less than one second ahead. "The car felt great" he said, as bagpipes echoed around the circuit in honour of the Scot.

Dario Franchitti.
Photo by Mark Gledhill.

Kenny Brack held the lead for most of the race as he made a great start from pole position. Three early yellow flags made it difficult for him to pull away and the trio of Andretti, Takagi and da Matta were never far behind. However Brack was never under any heavy pressure and was able to pull away without too much difficulty.

Paul Tracy was the first mechanical retirement of the day. He pulled off the track on lap 12 with bad vibrations and handling, bringing out the first caution period of the day.

Christian Fittipaldi suffered from mechanical gremlins since the early laps. He had a very long pitstop after soon after the start and rejoined lapped. However his car wasn't quite on the pace and, after letting many drivers past and making a subsequent pitstop, he retired from the event.

Shinji Nakano then had a big accident at Turn 4. He smashed into the outside wall and destroyed the left-hand side of his car before spinning round and stopping on the infield. The driver was okay and climbed out of the car once the medical crews had arrived.

Shinji Nakano's wrecked car.
Photo by Mark Gledhill.

Brack put in fast laps especially soon after the restarts and entered the final part of the race still in the lead. Tony Kanaan then went off at Turn 3 with 41 laps to go, bringing out the caution flags and allowing everyone to dive into the pits for the final time. Franchitti made a superb stop and he returned to the track in the lead. Meanwhile Brack's stop was slower and he dropped from first down to ninth place. "It's been like this all season, so you get used to it. We'll try again next time" he said philosophically

At the restart da Matta kept right behind Franchitti lapping at his fastest pace of the whole race, but Franchitti responded and left da Matta to fend of the closing Carpentier. Da Matta did not give up though and started to reel in Franchitti with ten laps to go -- the pair were lapping within just 0.5 seconds for the final few laps.

Dario Franchitti.
Photo by Mark Gledhill.

Dario's race was not uneventful. He stalled the car in one pitstop and then had tyre trouble in the next pitstop. However the Scot overcame these hurdles and was delighted with his first oval win "I didn't think it was going to happen" he said immediately afterwarsds.

Cristiano da Matta picked up valuable points with second position. "It was difficult to overtake" he said, "but the car worked good and the team gave very good pitstops. It is very important to collect points at this stage of the championship."

A delighted Patrick Carpentier in third was full of praise for his pitcrew, saying "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for those guys.". He then went on to describe the closing stages of the race: "I was trying, but I didn't want to go off line. It was very hard and I was succeeding to catch them, but then I had to lift when Andretti came out of the pits."

Darran Manning drove a consistant race and spent most of the time running in the midfield and during the pitstops he led for 15 laps His car was smoking slightly during the latter stages of the race but he crossed the line in ninth position. "It's just fantastic" he said, "a big thank you to the team. We've been improving and improving. Today we showed that we can run with the best."

Detailed race notes

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Series INDYCAR