CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Player's Laguna Seca race report

Monterey, California, October 14, 2001 Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani were caught up in a second-lap incident at the caution-filled Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday and were knocked from contention virtually from the...

Monterey, California, October 14, 2001 Team Player's drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani were caught up in a second-lap incident at the caution-filled Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday and were knocked from contention virtually from the start of the FedEx CART Championship race. While Carpentier was forced to retire,Tagliani fell two laps down following the incident, battled gamely but wasn't able to make up the laps and finished 15th.

The race had eight yellow flags, a record for the event, which was reduced to a two-hour time limit because of the numerous cautions. Max Papis, of Italy, used the yellows to his advantage to win the race, completing 76 of the scheduled 83 laps with a 0.794-second margin of victory over Memo Gidley of the United States and Brazilian Gil de Ferran, the CART series points' leader.

The opening-lap incident that had a dramatic effect on the outcome for Carpentier and Tagliani actually occurred when Michael Andretti got tangled up in traffic and went off course, losing his nose cone in the process. Andretti returned to the track as the field began to lap him. Tagliani was forced to lap him on the outside on the dirty track, while teammate Carpentier lapped him on the inside. Carpentier, who started ninth on the grid, directly behind Tagliani, thought there was an opening to get by Tagliani, but it quickly closed and he caught the rear wheel of his teammate. The contact sent Tagliani spinning off track and Carpentier into the retaining wall, ending his race. Tagliani saved his car and got back on track but by the time he returned to action he was two laps down.

"Michael (Andretti) came back on the track without his nose cone, so I went around him on the outside and lost some speed as I lifted off a bit," recounted Tagliani. "I guess Patrick must have been a little faster passing Michael, but when you're going 160 miles an hour coming down the hill you don't spend too much time looking in your mirrors. I didn't see a thing, but I felt a shock at the rear of the car and I went off course.

"It's unfortunate because the car was pretty good. It's a racing incident and these things happen, but I was a bit frustrated that it happened so early in the race, before we could even get into a rhythm. I'm sure Team Player's would have done better than 15th if this hadn't happened."

Carpentier, who said he would shoulder the blame for the contact, added that it was totally unintentional, "because I know we're both fighting for championship points and we need them right now. We certainly don't need to be out of a race practically before it has even started."

"When Michael (Andretti) went off, Alex put two wheels off course and lost momentum. I thought there was an opening but Alex re-accelerated much better than I expected and I hit his rear wheel because I was unable to brake in time. If there is anyone I didn't want to hit, it was him."

Sweden's Kenny Brack was also an opening lap retiree, an exit that hurt his drivers' championship aspirations. With his third-place finish today, Gil de Ferran increased his points' total to 179 for a commanding 26-point lead over the second-place Brack with two races to go.

The next-to-last race of the season is on October 28 on the streets of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.

-Player's-

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Series IndyCar