CHAMPCAR/CART: Newman-Haas Lausitz race report

The event, previously titled the German 500, was renamed in honor of the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and western Pennsylvania at the request of the President of the State of Brandenburg, Manfred...

The event, previously titled the German 500, was renamed in honor of the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and western Pennsylvania at the request of the President of the State of Brandenburg, Manfred Stople, and the German government. An assortment of special pre- and post-race activities were scheduled Saturday as a tribute to Tuesday's victims.

After it was announced that CART would proceed with race activities, Thursday's two practice sessions could not take place due to rain. At noon local time on Friday, the CART community met for a moment of silence and non-denominational religious services while a crowd of 39,627 braved intermittent rain until the track dried and the first practice session began at approx. 3:30 PM local time. In the interest of giving the drivers as much experience as possible at this new venue after a rainout of Thursday's testing, the weekend's qualifying session was canceled and the starting grid was based on championship points.

- Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi returned to Germany for his first race since finishing fourth in the 1994 Formula One event in Hockenheim.

The team struggled to find a good set-up for the new track and new wing package that was implemented for the event. After starting the race in 12th place, Fittipaldi dropped back in the field and was four laps down to the leader in the closing stages of the race before smoke from his car during a caution period caused the team to retire from the race that was marred by an accident involving Alex Zanardi and Alex Tagliani. At the start of the 154-lap race on the 2-mile oval, Fittipaldi dropped from 12th to 13th place after being passed by Alex Tagliani. On the following lap, Fittipaldi dropped to 16th place after being passed by Bruno Junqueira, Memo Gidley and Oriol Servia. By the ninth lap, he had dropped into 20th place after eventual second place finisher Max Papis and drivers Adrian Fernandez, Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser passed him.

On the 11th lap, Tora Takagi and Townsend Bell, who was making his first Champ Car start ever for Patrick Racing, passed him. He held 22nd place until his first pit stop on lap 33 and worked his way back into 21st place by lap 36. He held the position until moving into 20th on lap 48 after Fernandez pit. He held 20th place, but went one lap down to the current leader before his second pit stop on lap 67 during the caution to check for debris after Junqueira squeezed race leader Kenny Brack off course. He returned to the race in 22nd place behind two drivers who had yet to pit. By lap 71 he was in 21st place after passing Mauricio Gugelmin. He had briefly moved into 19th place by lap 82 when he made his third pit stop and returned to the race in 22nd place which he held until he moved back into 19th place before his fourth stop on lap 120.

He returned to the race in 21st place but moved into 18th after current race leader Alex Zanardi and fourth place runner Alexandre Tagliani were involved in a big crash with 12 laps to go after Zanardi spun coming off of pit lane, and rotated in front of Tagliani's car which hit Zanardi at full speed. Both drivers were subsequently taken away from the track via helicopters to a hospital in Berlin. After completing 148 of 154 laps, Fittipaldi was called into the pits due to smoke coming from the rear of his car and the team retired from the race. He lost one position and finished in 19th place. The event finished under a caution flag and Kenny Brack scored his fourth victory and regained the points lead.

Fittipaldi dropped from 12th to 13th place in the standings and the gap between he and the leader increased from 59 to 75 points with five races remaining. Following are his post race comments:

"I am concerned about Zanardi and Tagliani right now," said Fittipaldi after the race. "The accident looked huge. Stuff was everywhere. We weren't even in the race today because the car was so bad. At the end of the race, smoke came out of the car and we thought there was a problem but we think it was ultimately due to the fact that the car was cold from running so slow under the caution."

- Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta returned to Germany for the first time since competing in the country twice - once at Hockenheim and once at Nurburgring - all in F3000 in 1996. The team also struggled to find a good setup for the race car like Fittipaldi and he dropped from his seventh place starting position but retired after 37 of 154 laps due to a failed gear. Once the race started, da Matta dropped one position into eighth place after Patrick Carpentier passed him on the first lap.

He held eighth place until lap five when he dropped to 10th after being passed by Tony Kanaan and Alex Tagliani. He held 10th place until lap 23 when he dropped to 13th after being passed by Roberto Moreno, Oriol Servia and Paul Tracy. On lap 26, Alex Zanardi, who went on to lead 20 laps before his accident, passed him. Before his first pit stop on lap 35, he had dropped as low as 21st. Immediately before he pitted he asked the team to check out his engine telemetry as he thought the car sounded strange. Once in the pits the team also checked out the car, completed a routine pit stop and sent him back on track. He reported that the problem became more severe so he was called back in for the team to change the coils and was sent back on track. Again the problem worsened and the team decided it was most likely in the gearbox and retired the car with mechanical failure. Da Matta dropped form seventh to eighth in the point standings with an increased gap from the leader of 53 points.

Following are his post-race comments:

"I started hearing a noise and I thought it was the engine but we couldn't find anything when I came into the pits," said da Matta. "The problem got worse so I came back in and we started thinking it was the gear box which is what the team ultimately found out once they took the car apart in the garage. We were basically just going through the motions of doing our job today and trying to get back to a normal routine. I hope that Zanardi and Tagliani are okay. I was watching the race at that time from the pits and it was a big hit. My thoughts and prayers are with both drivers as well as the victims in the United States and their families. It has been a tough week in many areas."

- Texaco Donated $5 Million to Relief FundOn September 13, Texaco announced that they are pledging $5 million to the relief effort in response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States. They will work with national, state and local relief agencies to distribute the funds where they are needed most. Texaco also encouraged their employees to consider helping on a personal level, by donating blood or by making a financial contribution to an appropriate relief agency.

- Drivers Donate to Relief FundThe Championship Drivers Association, working through its Benevolent Fund, announced a donation of $50,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to aid the victims and families impacted by Tuesday's terrorist acts. The Championship Drivers Association represents those drivers who compete in the FedEx Championship Series and the Indy Racing League Northern Light Series.

- CART Donates to Relief FundOn behalf of its entire community, CART will make a donation to a designated World Trade Center Relief Fund that is equivalent to the race purse for today's American Memorial event. The standard purse for a CART event is $500,000 and will be the amount of the donation.

- On to EnglandThe FedEx Championship Series will remain in Germany until Monday when the teams will take a charter to England in preparation for the Rockingham 500 in one week in Corby, England.

- Race To Be Shown on MondayThe race was not shown live at 7:30 a.m. ET today out of respect to the victims of Tuesday's tragedy. The race will be shown on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET Monday on a tape-delay basis.

-NHR

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Cristiano da Matta