CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Dan Clarke race report

IMPRESSIVE HARD CHARGING BUT EARLY END TO DAN CLARKE'S RACE 08 April 2007...Dan Clarke was back in a race car this weekend for the first time since his final Champ Car race of 2006. With a winter of waiting, the British driver kept himself fit...

IMPRESSIVE HARD CHARGING BUT EARLY END TO DAN CLARKE'S RACE

08 April 2007...Dan Clarke was back in a race car this weekend for the first time since his final Champ Car race of 2006. With a winter of waiting, the British driver kept himself fit and ready for the new season, and he was finally able to return to the cockpit and continue his career in the US-based Champ Car World Series.

This race weekend, a street circuit in downtown Vegas, was the first stop for the racer. In one of the biggest challenges he jumped in his Minardi Team USA car and drove hard, but his raceday unfortunately ended with retirement after an accident early in the race.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix preparations for Clarke were a baptism of fire. He hadn't turned a wheel of the Panoz DP01 before arriving in the city and without any pre-season testing each of the practice and qualifying sessions were bringing experience to the Brit.

The 23 year-old, returning to the Series after a rookie season which set him apart from his rivals with his passion, daring and 'Speedy Dan' nickname, has continued to be a crowd pleaser. Throughout the weekend he demonstrated his tenacity, piloting his new car into the top ten on the first day of qualifying. Being nudged back to 12th in the final sessions, Clarke lined up for today's race on the sixth row for today's rolling start.

The wild ride to the first corner was an opportunity for Clarke to gain a few places and by the end of the first lap he was up to ninth place. Driving hard and on a pace with the leaders, he continued to make his way through the field, reaching sixth place after 12 laps, and turning second fastest lap of the race at this point. Unfortunately on the next lap Clarke lost the back end of the car in the fast turn three corner and slid into the tyre wall, causing damage which ended his race.

"Congratulations to Robert, my team mate, for a fantastic drive to second place, a great start to the season for Minardi Team USA", said Clarke after the Las Vegas race. "It was really difficult to watch him from the pitwall, as I felt so frustrated not to be out there battling, as we had the pace to be up there with him."

"It was a race of attrition today, with only six cars on the lead lap at the chequered flag, and I was one of the many victims of this challenging track. I might not have reached the finish, which is obviously disappointing, but I did have a great car today and it's really pumped me up, even higher, as I know we have just as much chance as anyone to get on the podium.

"Missing winter testing was a bit of a disadvantage, but we've done well to catch up the time deficit, but I think I've shown that I haven't lost any of the feisty driving that I'm known for. Although we didn't make it to the end today, the laps we did turn were all right up there with the leaders, so I'm very feeling very positive for Long Beach and we just need to capitalise on what we've learned and put it to good use there"

The Las Vegas Grand Prix was won by Will Power with Robert Doornbos in second place and Paul Tracy taking the final podium spot.

There's no rest for Clarke now, with the second of a trio of back-to-back street races next weekend. The Long Beach Grand Prix has always been the jewel in the crown of the Champ Car World Series and with the addition of the glittering Las Vegas event, there's sure to be competition off the track as well as on the streets of the Los Angeles suburb. The Long Beach Grand Prix kicks off on Friday 13 April, with the second race of the championship on Sunday 15 April.

-credit: dcr

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Series INDYCAR