CHAMPCAR/CART: Walker Racing Fontana race report

Tora Right On-Track At Season-Ending California Speedway CART Race Fontana, Calif., Nov. 7, 2001 Walker Racing driver Tora Takagi wrapped up a successful rookie season on the 2.029-mile superspeedway oval at California Speedway on Sunday in the...

Tora Right On-Track At Season-Ending California Speedway CART Race

Fontana, Calif., Nov. 7, 2001 Walker Racing driver Tora Takagi wrapped up a successful rookie season on the 2.029-mile superspeedway oval at California Speedway on Sunday in the #5 Pioneer/DENSO Special/Toyota/ Reynard/Firestone champ car.

"The car was good from the beginning of the weekend and handled well in traffic or driving on my own," Tora said. "The first part of the race was fine, and I was able to lead three laps of the race, which was fantastic. But we developed a problem with the engine mapping system and then everything went the wrong way. My tire was punctured after (Scott) Dixon's crash, but we were happy to bring the car home in one piece."

The Japanese native, who had never driven on an oval track before the 2001 season, finished in 15th position after fellow rookie Dixon spun and crashed, which brought out the final caution flag of the day, and shortened the race from its original scheduled distance of 250 laps to 220 due to concerns over a lack of daylight.

"The final result did not represent our day," owner Derrick Walker said. "The team did a great job in the pits, even with the fuel switch failure, and the shortened race distance which worked against us in the closing laps. In addition, we punctured a tire from the Dixon crash, and CART let three cars pass under the yellow that followed which we protested and was over-ruled by CART. We disagreed completely and felt that we had earned a 12th place finish, not the 15th that was posted."

Tora finished 21st in the final overall point standings in CART, and had the third-best record of all rookie drivers. His best starting position was 3rd at Michigan and his best oval finish was sixth at the American Memorial at Lausitzring Speedway in Germany. Tora had a best road/streetcourse finish of fourth place on the streets of Houston, Texas.

"I had many good experiences in my rookie season in CART," Tora added. "New people, new tracks and new racing. It was difficult at first to adjust, but once you understand the magic of 'full-course yellows' and the race strategy that is involved, it was fun. I raced against the big names in CART, and with the drafting and overtaking on the ovals; you cannot get this feeling outside the US. It was a very exciting year."

-WR-

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Series IndyCar