CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Dan Clarke race report

CLARKE GOES THE DISTANCE IN CHAMP CAR DEBUT Dan Clarke, 22 year-old British racing driver who crossed the Atlantic to race in the USA this year, debuted in the Champ Car World Series this weekend and showed his potential with a strong race...

CLARKE GOES THE DISTANCE IN CHAMP CAR DEBUT

Dan Clarke, 22 year-old British racing driver who crossed the Atlantic to race in the USA this year, debuted in the Champ Car World Series this weekend and showed his potential with a strong race pace and third fastest lap in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today. Starting in 13th place after two days of practice and qualifying, Clarke finished 11th at the Californian street race.

Clarke's late signing for CTE Racing -- HVM in the Champ Car series has resulted in little testing time for the young Brit and he has remained a relative unknown among the USA fans and media. But with his natural friendly demeanour and strong first day's Champ Car performance, it didn't take long for Clarke to be creating a buzz.

In the first practice session Clarke used the time wisely, learning the Long Beach track and reacclimatising himself with his champ car, which he was driving for only the third time. Posting 14th quickest lap in the morning, he improved to 10th place in the provisional qualifying session on Friday afternoon. Returning to the car on Saturday morning Clarke finished 15th fastest, concentrating on trying different car setups and preparing for the final qualifying session, in which he ended 13th quickest, his grid position for his Champ Car debut.

On the opening lap of the race a four car incident at the front of the pack saw a quad of first lap retirements, while Clarke was able to avoid the stricken cars and jump to ninth. Clarke dropped to 14th after running wide and sliding the back end into the tyre barrier, which necessitated a pitstop to replace the rear wing. He was back out on track and showed his true race potential recording the third fastest lap of the race as he got into his race pace. With further retirements, Clarke moved up to 11th place, to finish in this position at the chequered flag.

"It's been one of the most amazing weekends of my life," says Clarke. "There have been so many new experiences that it's been difficult to take everything in. Stepping up into this world of top level US motorsport has been a huge leap, from the size of the motorhomes in the paddock to the people surrounding me to make everything run smoothly. It's a completely new world and I'm really enjoying it. The racing is tough and punishing both mentally and physically, but I'm definitely up for this challenge. I have a great sense of satisfaction for reaching the chequered flag and completing the first race.

"The crew were invaluable today. They have plenty of experience and every time I came into the pits they worked like lightening to get me out again as quick as possible. The engineers were guiding me through the race as well, so I really must thank them all for the part they played today. I've learned so much during the race and although I made some mistakes, we kept going until the end. I think I've proved our potential, now it's going to be a matter of getting it right every lap and then we can be up there with the best."

Clarke will be back out in the Champ Car series early next month for the Grand Prix of Houston taking place from May 11-13, with the race being staged at night, another 'first' for Clarke, in his rookie season of the American single-seater racing series. Prior to this, he will be testing with his team at Portland, Oregon and returning to the UK to catch up with family and friends.

-speedydan-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dan Clarke