CHAMPCAR/CART: Player's Rockingham race report

Corby, England, September 22, 2001 Team Player's drivers Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier competed hard but fell just short of point-paying positions on Saturday, finishing 14th and 16th respectively in a 140-lap race on the 1.5-mile...

Corby, England, September 22, 2001 Team Player's drivers Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier competed hard but fell just short of point-paying positions on Saturday, finishing 14th and 16th respectively in a 140-lap race on the 1.5-mile Rockingham Speedway oval. Carpentier was running 10th with nine laps to go but had to briefly duck into the pits to get a splash of fuel that cost him several positions on the track and knocked him out of the points.

Brazilian Gil de Ferran won the race with a bold pass of Sweden's Kenny Brack on the final lap, just after Brack had assumed the lead from de Ferran on the previous lap. De Ferran became the 11th different driver to win a CART race this season, tying the series' record set last year. Cristiano da Matta, of Brazil, was third, a position he was awarded following the race after it was determined that Helio Castroneves had passed under a caution flag on lap 100, resulting in a penalty of one race position for Castroneves.

The race was originally shortened to 168 laps from its scheduled 210, and then further reduced to 140 to ensure that it was completed in daylight. A track-drainage problem had prevented the drivers from having a full practice session until Saturday morning, just hours before the race. The rescheduling of the race left a tight time frame, prompting the reduction in race laps.

Tagliani, who started 14th but had slid down to 19th by lap 13, hung tough throughout the race, gaining a couple of positions in the two pit stops and driving with poise on a four-turn circuit that had limited passing opportunities.

"The car was very good when I was by myself but real hard to handle in traffic I almost lost it twice," remarked Tagliani, who said he had mixed feelings about the Rockingham oval, which played host to a CART series event for the first time. "This race was mentally draining for me. It's been a long two weeks over here in Europe, but now we're heading back home and I'm going to catch my breath and get ready for the next race, in Houston. Team Player's was so close to winning in our last street course event, in Vancouver, and I just know I'm going to win one before the end of the season."

An opening-lap spin by Max Papis that caused a chain reaction involving two other cars also affected Carpentier, who had started seventh but wound up 14th by the time the yellow flag came out. "There was a lot of smoke when Max spun, so I had to go onto the grass to avoid any contact," explained Carpentier. "When I did that, it cost me several positions."

Solid work by the Team Player's crew on the two pit stops enabled Carpentier to work his way back up the field to 10th by the lap 105 restart following a full-course caution. However, a minor glitch with the stopwatch on the fuel rigger device during the second pit stop prevented Carpentier from taking on a full fuel load. Consequently, he needed a splash to be able to finish the final nine laps. "We've still got four races left and we'll make up for this one," vowed Carpentier.

The victory by de Ferran, who is second in the drivers' standings, drew him within six points of Brack, who tops the standings with 147 points. Carpentier is in eighth spot with 83 points, while Tagliani is 15th with 51 points.

Following a one-week break in the CART schedule, Team Player's swings back into action for Round 18, a 100-lap race through the streets of Houston on October 7.

-Player's-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Cristiano da Matta