CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast race notes

Australia - Race Notebook Team Rahal members Larry Ellert and Mike Hofmeister sustained only minor injuries during a fire in the pit of driver Bryan Herta that occurred during a stop after he completed 40 of the 65 laps of the IndyCar ...

Australia - Race Notebook

Team Rahal members Larry Ellert and Mike Hofmeister sustained only minor injuries during a fire in the pit of driver Bryan Herta that occurred during a stop after he completed 40 of the 65 laps of the IndyCar Australia.

Ellert, chief mechanic for Herta's Shell Reynard Mercedes, received minor abrasions as well as bruises on his back, shoulders and left hip from the incident, according to Dr. Steve Olvey, IndyCar's director of medical affairs. Olvey also reported that Hofmeister, the tire technician for Bobby Rahal's Miller Reynard Mercedes who attempted to help the Shell team in the neighboring pit, was treated for an abrasion in the shin area.

The injuries were sustained in an effort to put out the fire. No Team Rahal members suffered any burns.

"I came to the pits in good shape. We were near the top five and running quite smoothly,'' Herta said. "...I heard the guys say something and the next thing they yelled to jump out of the car. I don't know exactly what happened. But water was going all over me and I leaped out of the car. I hope my crew guys are okay. I feel really bad about it."

* FIRESTONE FIRESTORM

Dating back to previous race in the PPG Indy Car World Series schedule - the Rio 400 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Firestone tires have led 116 of the last 118 laps of IndyCar competition.

The tire manufacturer led 51 of the final 53 laps at the Rio 400 and all 65 at the IndyCar Australia. Those who have contributed to the run have been Jimmy Vasser (60 laps, Target Reynard Honda), rookie Greg Moore (28, Player's Ltd./Indeck Reynard Mercedes), Andre Ribeiro (18, LCI International Lola Honda), Scott Pruett (5, Firestone-Patrick Racing Lola Ford) and rookie Alex Zanardi (5, Target Reynard Honda).

The only driver using Goodyear tires to interrupt the current streak was Robby Gordon (Valvoline/Cummins/Craftsman Reynard Ford), who led Laps 103 and 104 in the 133-lap Rio 400.

* EARLY EXIT

Emerson Fittipaldi (Marlboro Hogan Penske Mercedes) retired after eight laps because of engine electronics failure, marking his earliest exit from an Indy Car event since 1988.

Fittipaldi completed no laps during the Nissan Indy Challenge at Tamiami Park in Miami on Nov. 6, 1988 after being involved in a seven-car incident in Turn 1. Fittipaldi, who started sixth in that race, officially finished 20th in the 26-car field. On Sunday, he was 25th.

* LAP HAPPY

Vasser only needed three races to more than quadruple his total lead laps and surpass the amount of times he led during his previous four seasons in the PPG Indy Car World Series.

Vasser had led twice for 20 laps in his career - all of which came in the 1995 season - led at Miami and eclipsed his career mark by holding the advantage twice at the IndyCar Australia. He also led 65 laps of the IndyCar Australia to give him a series-high 92 laps led.

* DIEHARD II

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Budweiser Lola Ford) and Pruett are the only drivers who have completed all 331 laps of the first three events of the PPG Indy Car World Series.

The duo's durability and consistency has paid off as they rank among the top three in the PPG Cup points despite no victories. Pruett, who has three top-four showings, trails Vasser, 47-42, in the PPG Cup race. Fittipaldi, with three top-six finishes, is third in points with 28.

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