THE BEST-LAID PLANS . . . . Zolder, Belgium (August 26, 2007) -- The inaugural Champ Car Belgian Grand Prix was not memorable for Minardi Team USA in the way the team would have liked. It started well enough, with Robert Doornbos ...
THE BEST-LAID PLANS . . . .
Zolder, Belgium (August 26, 2007) -- The inaugural Champ Car Belgian Grand Prix was not memorable for Minardi Team USA in the way the team would have liked. It started well enough, with Robert Doornbos running second for the first half of the event and pushing title rival, Sebastien Bourdais hard, but a difficult race from a strategy and race conditions standpoint meant the young Dutchman ultimately had to settle for seventh. Mario Dominguez, filling in for Dan Clarke this weekend, started twelfth, and had climbed as high as fifth immediately prior to his third, and final, pit stop. Unfortunately, a rear wheel came off the car soon afterwards, and he was forced to park his DP01 on the side of the racetrack.
Robert made an impressive pass at the start, running wheel-to-wheel with Will Power into the first corner and claiming second position. He did an excellent job of saving fuel while keeping pace with Bourdais, and opted to stay on the softer Bridgestone red 'Option' tires for his first pit stop. During his second stint on reds, Robert was not able to run as quickly as the leader, Bourdais, and third-place man, Will Power, both of whom were on blacks, but nevertheless, he maintained his second position. The turning point of Robert's race, however, occurred after his second pit stop. The combination of a strong bid to catch, and pass Bourdais, and not being able to achieve the fuel mileage required, meant he had to head for the pits a lap earlier than planned, and in the process, fell behind Power and Justin Wilson. Then stuck in slower traffic any realistic hope of a podium finish largely evaporated, and although Robert pressed on hard to the finish, he had to settle for seventh place. He remains positive, however, and will be looking for a strong result at Assen next weekend to put his championship challenge back on track.
"We had a great start, I got a run on Will and we were side by side into turn one, which is a great moment for a driver. I fortunately got the best of it. I was then running close with Sebastien and saving fuel, but I still had to pit one lap before everyone else. Our second stint on reds was not so good, and the timing of the safety cars didn't help out either, as guys were coming out of the pits right in front of me and blocking me -- I guess it's allowed, since we're in Europe. Hopefully we'll have a better race next weekend at home, but I want to thank all of the fans for coming out. For sure I'll try very hard and hopefully get a better result at Assen."
For Mario, things also were looking good at the start. He quickly moved up one spot to eleventh, and was running a strong pace turning very competitive lap times. His first pit stop came on lap fifteen with the rest of the field, under yellow conditions. Unfortunately, he positioned the car too far from the pit wall, and his crew had difficulty getting the fuel nozzle in the car properly, which caused him to fall back to sixteenth position. He was very steadily moving up until just after his second stop. One of the wheels was not seated properly, and it came off shortly after Mario exited the pits, ending his day on lap 49.
"It's just unfortunate that things didn't work out today. I had a good start, the car felt strong and I was able to run at a good pace while saving lots of fuel. We then lost a lot of positions during my second pit stop, but I was able to get quite a lot of them back as the race progressed. The car was running well at this point, but then, on the out lap after my final stop, a wheel came loose, and in doing so, broke the input shaft, which meant I couldn't get the car back to the pits. On a personal note, I'd like to thank Paul Stoddart, Keith Wiggins and Harry Muermans for the opportunity to work with Minardi Team USA. It's a great team, and hopefully, we can do something with them again in the future."
Keith Wiggins, Team Co-owner
"It was a frustrating outcome for us this weekend. We had the pace at the beginning of the race, but we just couldn't get the fuel mileage (with Robert) and then the way the yellows came, we just couldn't recover. It was a disappointing weekend all around, and we'll have to do better at Assen."
Paul Stoddart, Team Co-owner
"Without wishing to state the obvious, this wasn't the result we were looking for at the first of the two European Champ Car races. For one reason or another, we struggled all weekend, and today it's fair to say that luck most certainly was not with us. Mario retired on lap 48, after a rear wheel parted company from his car, and Robert was simply unlucky with the timing of the yellow flags and the pit stops. We remain positive, however, and look forward to a better result next weekend."