CHAMPCAR/CART: Rockingham Motor Spreedway race report

Champ Cars Have Fans on the Edge of their Seats Brazilian Gil de Ferran, the reigning CART champion, took his first victory of the year in front of 38,000 British fans in a grandstand finish with Sweden's Kenny Brack. In a last corner pass that...

Champ Cars Have Fans on the Edge of their Seats

Brazilian Gil de Ferran, the reigning CART champion, took his first victory of the year in front of 38,000 British fans in a grandstand finish with Sweden's Kenny Brack. In a last corner pass that had the crowd on its feet, de Ferran took the chequered flag less than a second ahead of his rival.

The first ever CART race ever held in the UK on an oval track finally got underway after two days of problems that have dogged the running of round 17 of the CART FedEx Championship Series. The action started on the opening lap as twenty-six of the fastest racing cars in the world thundered around the Rockingham oval. Max Papis got his car sideways as the pack entered the last corner and in a cloud of tyre smoke dramatically spun his car through 180 degrees, and then back, to end his spin facing the right way down the track. Behind Papis, Bruno Junqueira and Tora Takagi span off the track in avoidance, eliminating both cars. Papis was able to continue and then after seven laps behind the safety car racing commenced once again.

Fifth placed Dario Franchitti was looking for a way around Helio Castroneves as soon as the lights went green and drafted the Brazilian's car to move into 4th early on. The Scot then moved into 3rd with an excellent manoeuvre on Michael Andretti on lap 46. At the front of the field Kenny Brack got a run on Gil de Ferran to pass on the inside of the Brazilian to move into the lead for the first time.

Lap 50 saw the second yellow of the race after Michael Jourdain Jr got into difficulties in turn 4, spinning right in front of Dario Franchitti. The Scot managed to take avoiding action and the yellow caution flags were once again brought out. This caused a mad dash for the pits with Franchitti losing two hard won places in the Pitlane scramble.

Once racing commenced again the front of the field settled down with Kenny Brack and Gil de Ferran pulling away from 3rd placed Cristiano da Matta. Adrian Fernandez then suffered a mechanical failure, dropping oil on the track on the run down to turn 2. Another mad dash for fuel and tyres commenced, with de Ferran benefiting from a slick pitstop to exit the pits in front of Brack. Franchitti had a disastrous stop and rejoined the track in 9th place.

Racing recommenced on lap 101 and once again it was a Gil de Ferran / Kenny Brack battle at the front of the field. De Ferran led until the penultimate lap when the Brazilian was passed by Brack in a brilliant move as they entered the final turn. The Team Rahal driver looked as if he was going to add a victory in Britain to the one he had taken in Germany a week ago. However, de Ferran had other ideas and passed him in an identical move to the one Brack had pulled a lap before. The two cars were side-by-side as they went into the last corner and the crowd rose to their feet as Gil de Ferran took the chequered flag.

Helio Castroneves brought his car home in the final podium position only to be demoted to fourth place when he was judged to have overtaken a car under yellow flags during the last caution period. Cristiano da Matta gained a place to take the final podium position. Patrick Carpentier, driving for Player's Forsyth Racing, finished a disappointing 16th but had the consolation of posting the fastest lap of the race of 25.251 seconds (210.859mph), a new racing lap record in the UK.

Collecting his winners trophy, Gil de Ferran was really happy to have won in Britain, a place he considers his second home. "For me it's an emotional race, I have a strong attachment to this country. My wife is British, I lived here for many years and in many ways my career took off over here. To win this race in Britain is very special for me. I have to say the guys in the pits did a wonderful job on the second stop to put me ahead of Kenny. We [had] made some adjustments to the car and I was leading quite comfortably. I came up to Max [Papis] but I understeered off and got loose on the exit and Kenny just shot by me. My car was very good though and then Kenny had to deal with the traffic so he had the same problem I had. I got a good run coming off [turn] 2 though 3 and we went side-by-side in [turn] 4. But I had a better line than and was able to carry across a little deeper, thankfully, and take the chequer in a very, very exciting race."

-RMS-

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Series IndyCar