SWEET DREAMS OF A DOUBLE TOP-THREE EFFORT IN SAN JOSE FOR RSPORTS TURN OUT TO BE NIGHTMARES
Polesitter Wilson finishes 13th, Tagliani 15th
SAN JOSE, California (July 29, 2007) - As the spirits were high in the RSPORTS pits at the start of the race, those were dampened quickly as the pole sitter and then current race leader Justin Wilson was hit from behind sending him into the pits for a lengthy repair. Teammate Alex Tagliani was on track for a top three finish, he was running strong until a problem in the pits, followed by a mechanical failure, ended his day. RSPORTS finished 13th and 15th with their respective issues.
The 30-minute warm up session finished with both RSPORTS teammates in the top five. Wilson topped the charts with a time of 49.716 (104.490 mph), while Tagliani rounded out the top five with the fifth quickest time of 49.993 (103.911 mph). The team and drivers were feeling pretty confident with their racecars and ready for a race that was anticipated to see both drivers finish on the podium.
After the sixth standing start in Champ Car history took the green flag without a glitch, Sebastien Bourdais beat pole sitter Wilson into Turn 1, but Wilson took the lead from him in Turn 2. For the next three laps, Wilson paced the field, which was under caution after a first-lap melee brought out the yellow flag on Lap 2. Just as the field was preparing for a restart on Lap 5, Wilson was leading the field to the green flag up until he entered Turn 6. That is when his day went downhill, as he was hit from behind by the second-place runner, Dan Clarke. The Englishman entered the pit lane very slowly, with apparent suspension damage. Once the #9 CDW crew was able to take a look at the car, they witnessed a broken drive shaft and toe link. The crew went hard to work to repair the damages, sending Wilson back out 20 laps down. The team radioed to him to see how the #9 CDW car was feeling, and he said it was good. That it was, on Lap 28 Wilson recorded the fastest lap of the race up to that point with a time of 50.779. He would continue to lower the quickest lap of the race and on Lap 35 he recorded the fastest lap of the race with a 49.584.
Demonstrating he had a winning car this afternoon by setting a new Champ Car record for the fastest race lap on the streets of San Jose, Wilson stayed patient and brought the #9 CDW car home to salvage a 13th place finish. He earned one point for posting the fastest race lap, along with 10 points for finishing the race. He remains fourth in the championship standings with a total of 175 points, 17 points out of third.
Tagliani's day was just as disappointing. After starting seventh on the San Jose Grand Prix grid, he made his way up into the top five by Lap 4. On Lap 30, Tagliani made a nice move at the exit of Turn 1 to get past Graham Rahal to pick up the fourth position. As the first round of pit stops began, Tagliani picked up the lead on Lap 41 before making his first stop of the day on Lap 42. Then the problems began. During the pit stop, the engine stopped running, costing the team valuable time in the pits and a few positions. Once he got going again, he was sitting tenth. He gained one spot on track before falling to the 12th spot after he made a small mistake. But there was no mistake that he was still in the running to have a solid race, as he was doing an excellent job conserving fuel, therefore being able to run longer then most of the 17-car field this afternoon. Then on Lap 85 he was ordered back into the pits because he was experience shifting problems.
Ultimately, the #8 RSPORTS car had a valve block failure in the semi-automatic shifter system. The valve block controls the actuation of the up and down shift system and the throttle blipper. The valve block began to leak, therefore the compressor turned on to try and replenish the system pressure. When it could not do that any longer, the compressor failed. The #8 RSPORTS crew changed the valve block, but just could not get back out on time.
Tagliani earned his second DNF (Did Not Finish) in nine race this season, finishing 15th overall. He drops down from sixth to ninth in the championship standings with a total of 140 points, but is only 16 points out of being back in the top five.
The RSPORTS team will have a week off, before the next round of Champ Car racing action returns to road course racing at the famed Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 10-12.
Justin Wilson #9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone
"The #9 CDW car has been fantastic all weekend. It was awesome in the race. When we were coming around for the restart, I hadn't even gotten to the exit of Turn 6 and I got rammed from behind. I do not know what Dan (Clarke) was thinking, he must not have been paying attention and just came flying into the back of me. The #9 CDW crew did a really good job trying to change the drive shaft after it broke from the contact with Clarke. That is not something that is easy to change because they have to take every thing else off the rear corner to get to it. So, then I was just sitting there in disbelief and waiting until it was time to go again. After that, when I was able to get back out there, I was just trying to stay out of people's way and hoping that enough people would drop out of the race so that I could get as high of a finish that I could possible salvage. What was important for us was to pick up every point that we could. We got a point for the fastest race lap, along with the points for finishing 13th, so it was not a complete waste. We would have finished 17th if the guys did not work has hard as they could to get me back out there in the race, so that shows just how important it was for us today because we earned a few extra points and made the most out of it."
Alex Tagliani #8 RSPORTS Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone
"I am a little bit disappointed because we had a great car. We were doing extremely well on fuel mileage and the #8 RSPORTS car was very competitive, very quick today. We got into the lead when Servia and Jani pitted and we were on our way to a solid podium finish. When I came into the pits for our first stop, the engine died when I got into my box. We lost fuel pressure and then it took a while to get the engine to start. When we were able to get back on track, I got in the middle of the pack of guys that were out of sequence with warm tires and light fuel loads. I was trying to save fuel and keep doing my race, and that is when I made a little mistake going into Turn 6, but I got back out on the track and continued. After that, one more problem came, which was the down shifting problem. I got stuck in a gear, and I was unable to up shift or down shift, so I came into the pits and we tried to get it repaired. My #8 RSPORTS crew worked hard, but we were not able to get back out there in enough time. It is very frustrating for us, I think that it was our race today, but we just let it slip between our fingers."
Dan Pettit, RSPORTS team co-owner
"It was a terrible day for Justin. He had a quick car all weekend, and made a great start from pole this afternoon. He was leading the pack around for the restart on Lap 4, when he was hit from behind by Dan Clarke. There was nothing that he did wrong, it was just one of those instances. It ruined our shot today of finishing on the podium with a win, or at least a top three result, and that is such a shame for CDW, all of our other partners, and our team. We are so close, but I guess it just wasn't our time today. We will head to Road America with our heads held high, and hope for another great race car and better luck."
Paul Gentilozzi, RSPORTS team co-owner
"It was a tough day for Alex today. We knew that we had a car that could have been on the podium, we faltered a bit in the pits on our own accord. At the end of the day, we just weren't able to get it done. It was unfortunate that we had a failure on Alex's car because we thought we had recovered quite well from the problems that we had earlier. But ultimately, the failure ended our day. So we will pack up, go back home to East Lansing, figure out what happened, and then head to Road America and hope for a better result."