With the car running at its best since St. Petersburg, Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing was expecting a great result this weekend. Driver Tiago Monteiro topped the charts in two separate sessions and all was looking good. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant...
With the car running at its best since St. Petersburg, Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing was expecting a great result this weekend. Driver Tiago Monteiro topped the charts in two separate sessions and all was looking good. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. After starting a solid 12th on the grid, Monteiro had his right rear tire punctured on the opening lap and had to come to the pits for tires and fuel, dropping him to the back of the field. Superb work by the crew kept the young Portuguese driver in the hunt. Running on a different strategy than the early leaders, Monteiro moved into the number two spot behind Adrian Fernandez early on. Everything seemed to be working out when on lap 49 Tiago moved into the lead after the majority of the field pitted during a yellow flag. Monteiro kept the number 7 entry out front holding off Paul Tracy for 10 laps before he hit his pit window and had to come in for the mandatory 4 tires and fuel. Once again the team did a fantastic job and it looked like they would stay in the top ten when the CART stewards made a controversial blocking call that would result in a drive through penalty that knocked Monteiro back to 13th. Working his way back up to 9th, the team had one final stop to make. Timing seemingly perfect with a yellow flag coming just before the stop, all went awry when Monteiro was moved back to the end of the field by CART in a second call that the team disagreed with.
Monteiro and the team felt they had the car to finish in the top 6 and were obviously disappointed even though they were back in the points for the first time since Toronto. "It was frustrating," Tiago said. "So many things happened. We had a good car and ran a strong race. We led 10 laps holding off Paul Tracy. I'm very proud of the team and everybody. Again we had a first lap incident like in Elkhart Lake. Some drivers seem to think they can win a race in the 1st lap; it's ridiculous. We had a punctured tire and had to come back and start over. We pushed hard all race and had some good laps. We led several laps, but weren't rewarded in the end. But, it's good for the future; it gives us confidence."
Team owner James Dingman was equally frustrated with the weekend's final results. "We're very proud of Tiago," said Dingman. "He ran a great race. Unfortunately he wasn't able to overcome obstacles that were beyond his control. It's frustrating as an owner to have a ruling that seems so inconsistent with prior calls in similar situations." James and co-owner Emerson Fittipaldi have asked CART to review the calls for future clarification. The team looks forward to a short break before the Montreal event.