>From CART Media Relations Scott Pruett's recent run of consistency in Australia proved to be a countdown to his second career PPG Cup victory Sunday in the Sunbelt IndyCarnival Australia in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland. Driving Pat...
>From CART Media Relations
Scott Pruett's recent run of consistency in Australia proved to be a countdown to his second career PPG Cup victory Sunday in the Sunbelt IndyCarnival Australia in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland.
Driving Pat Patrick's Brahma Sports Team Reynard Ford Cosworth, Pruett took the lead on lap 42 of the shortened 57 lap event and led Greg Moore (Player's Reynard Mercedes-Benz) across the line by .684 seconds. Michael Andretti extended his PPG Cup points lead with a third-place finish in the Kmart/Texaco Havoline Swift Ford Cosworth.
For Pruett, Sunday's win was merely the final step in what has been a three-year visit to the IndyCarnival podium. In his first race with Patrick at Surfer's in 1995, Pruett finished a strong third in what was only the rejuvenated team's second race together. One year later, Pruett improved to take second place in Australia for the Patrick crew while Sunday's win was the next logical step. His first win came at the 1995 Michigan 500.
The race's five caution periods for 24 laps slowed the winning pace to just 78.948 mph but none of the incidents were as bad as a horrendous accident Christian Fittipaldi suffered after completing the opening lap. A red flag was shown and CART officials ultimately declared a complete race restart.
"I remember everything" Fittipaldi said. "De Ferran hit me from behind and I hit the wall in front of the pit, at the beginning of the pit straight. The second hit was completely unbelievable. I went in head-on. I couldn't feel anything in my right leg, so I was pretty worried. My painkillers are wearing off, but they won't give me more because I'm having surgery."
According to Dr. Stephen Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, Fittipaldi was conscious and alert when removed from the car. He has sustained a fracture to his lower right leg. He has been transported to Gold Coast Hospital and will undergo surgery later this evening.
Following the top-three finishers across the line were pole-sitter Alex Zanardi, de Ferran, Andre Ribeiro, Raul Boesel, Mark Blundell and top-rookie Dario Franchitti.
The race got off to an eventful start when a second-lap incident involving Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart/Budweiser Swift Ford), Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez/Mexlub/Viva Mexico! Lola Ford) forced the event to be red-flagged and restarted.
Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), who set a PPG CART World Series record with his sixth consecutive pole position Saturday, took the lead on the restart and held it for the first 18 laps before giving way to Paul Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes). Tracy maintained the point for 21 laps before rookie Arnd Meier, making his PPG CART World Series debut, held a brief two-lap advantage on Laps 40 and 41.
Tracy and Zanardi made wheel-to-wheel contact as both attempted to get around Meier on Lap 42. Both cars ended up in the runoff area, with Tracy exiting the race as a result of the contact.
Pruett was the ultimate beneficiary of that collision and he never relinquished the lead. Moore, meanwhile, posted his second podium finish in Australia and matched the career-best finish he recorded at Nazareth last year.
"Finishing second here today is about like a dream come true for us," Moore said. "We had only 100 miles on the car when we came here, and the guys just worked so hard to get the car ready. Without their effort, I wouldn't be here."
Andretti was pleased to follow his season-opening victory in Homestead, Fla. with a third-place showing Sunday, but felt that his 12th-place starting position kept him from finishing higher.
"The car performed pretty good today," said Andretti, the PPG Cup points leader with 35. "What hurt us was our starting position more than anything else. Had we started higher up, I think we would have been in contention."
Zanardi recovered from his incident with Tracy to finish fourth, followed by de Ferran, who took fifth in his secondary car after losing the primary in earlier incident. PPG Cup champion Jimmy Vasser finished his 17th consecutive PPG CART World Series event in 12th place, while Zanardi has now led at least one lap in 10 consecutive events.
The four-day attendance total of 226,130 also set an event record.
Sunday's race will be broadcast on a tape delay basis by ABC-TV at 1:30 p.m. ET, and will re-air on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET Monday.
The PPG CART World Series returns to North America for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 13, at 1 p.m. ET. The race will be shown live on ABC-TV.