CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Nazareth Race Report

Early Promise Ends in Disappointment for Mercedes Drivers Castro-Neves Leads, Records Fastest Lap Before Crash Helio Castro-Neves started the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix from the front row, and raced hard in the early going, looking...

Early Promise Ends in Disappointment for Mercedes Drivers Castro-Neves Leads, Records Fastest Lap Before Crash

Helio Castro-Neves started the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix from the front row, and raced hard in the early going, looking like a contender for his first CART win. With decisive moves in traffic, he twice passed eventual race winner Juan Montoya and set the fastest lap of the race (21.106 seconds/161.357 mph). Unfortunately, his strong run ended prematurely, when he spun his Hogan Racing Mercedes Lola race car on lap 170, losing two laps. Then, restarting with cold tires, Castro-Neves made hard contact with the outside wall in turn three, retiring from the race. Castro-Neves was treated and released from the CART medical center, suffering bruises to his right elbow and knee.

Player's/Forsythe driver Greg Moore suffered handling problems throughout the race and finished 12th. Moore, who won the season-opener at Homestead, holds third place in the PPG Cup driver's championship. His teammate, Patrick Carpentier, started in the third row and raced in seventh position until a pit-lane safety violation dropped him back to 19th in lap 49. Carpentier eventually finished 14th.

PacWest Motorola pilot Mark Blundell started and raced well in fifth position, then made a scheduled pit stop under a green flag on lap 140. Luck was against Blundell when the yellow flag came out at lap 145 and the leaders pitted without losing track position. Blundell finished 17th. Teammate Mauricio Gugelmin struggled with the handling problems caused by the controversial new small wing package mandated by CART for short ovals this season, and finished 18th.

Al Unser Jr., returning to action in the Marlboro Penske Mercedes for the first time since the season-opener in which he crashed and broke his right leg, made contact with the outside wall at turn three on lap 45. Unser Jr., was uninjured but the car was retired from the race.

Mercedes Formula One Team Finishes Second at Imola Earlier today, the defending Formula One champion West McLaren Mercedes team and driver David Coultard finished second at Formula One's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy. Teammate Mika Hakkinen had qualified on pole (with Coultard second), but spun out of the race in the early going.

Mercedes Quotes

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (12th/224 laps) "I didn't see much passing. There was no racing here today. You can't pass, you can't get close. We just didn't have the set up today. We'll probably have to do some more testing for these short ovals. We'd concentrated on the road courses, but it looks like we'll have to work on this." Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (14th/224 laps) "The car was running good today, so the penalty was a big disappointment. The pop-off valve came off and a wire disconnected. We lost power, so I had to come in and fix that. Otherwise, the engine was excellent and was an improvement with the higher RPMs."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (17th/223 laps) "The Motorola car was pretty darn good today. I feel disappointed we lost so much when the yellow came out just after we pitted on schedule. Step by step we'd been making progress all weekend. The team was doing a great job, and it showed in the race car we were able to put on the road. After the yellow, it was impossible to make up positions on this track. "It's a shame to leave Nazareth with no points. We were among the fastest cars on the circuit this weekend. We've had some great cars this year, but we just can't seem to get a lucky break. I know it will come, but I just wish it would happen sooner."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (18th/222 laps) "I had to pit under the green because I almost hit the wall coming out of turn three. I picked up so much debris on my tires, the car just wouldn't handle well today."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (21st /175 laps) "When I spun the first time, I'm not really sure what exactly happened. PJ Jones was in front of me and using the same line. Montoya was a little lower, so that was good because I had clean air all the time. When we came back around, PJ all of a sudden was in my line and the car just lost control. Fortunately, I was able to pit for new tires and continue. Everything looked great! Regarding the accident: "In turn two it felt like the throttle stuck a little bit, but then it stopped, so I figured it was me, maybe just not feeling things right at that particular second. I touched the brake, and it was fine. I let everybody go, because I wanted to go for the fastest race lap and as I headed toward three and lifted off, the throttle stuck. When I hit the brakes, the pedal went straight to the floor. The next thing I knew I was in the wall. "Of course it's not the way we wanted to end the weekend, but all we can do now is go to Rio and try to repeat what we did here, but with a better outcome!"

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear (24th/44 laps) "We were holding our own. We had topped off on an early pit stop as part of our strategy. I picked up some understeer and just got in too deep on the entry to turn three. The front brakes locked, and I went straight into the wall. It's a shame because we had really hoped to run all day."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske