MOTEGI, Japan Sept. 18, 2011 – Aside from seeing the impressive Twin Ring Motegi and its more impressive Japanese fans, the best part of this Asian trip for Vitor Meira and the ABC Supply team just may be the flight home. Meira started 24th and was punted from behind with two laps to go relegating him to the sand trap in turn 3 and 25th in the Indy Japan: The Final boxscore.
Scott Dixon won the race from the pole. Second through fifth were Will Power, Marco Andretti, Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servia.
“Very tough weekend to be honest,” Meira said afterwards. “We kept making improvements. In the race we picked up and got back to 16th and we were running an okay pace, not as competitive as we wanted to be, but okay. Unfortunately, on the last restart after I had passed Briscoe, in the next corner, [Charlie] Kimball maybe he braked too late but he ran into my rear end and took me out. So that was very disappointing, we charged hard all race long trying to make up spots and to get taken out when we were making up ground, it is disappointing.”
The weekend didn’t start out that bleak as Meira was 17th in the first practice and 13th in the second, so the progress appeared to be headed in the right direction. However, the third practice right before qualifying in which he was 25th became an unwelcome harbinger of things to come. He qualified 24th.
In the final practice on race day, he had mechanical/electrical issues that saw him sitting outside turn 9 for most of the morning warm-up, having gotten in only five laps in the 30-minute session.
Despite the questionable race start and subsequent restarts where only the first couple rows were in proper formation, Meira was in 20th by the first round of pit stops. However, a problem on the first pit stop when the car wasn’t aligned close enough for refueling necessitated the car to be wheel-jacked into position. By lap 21, he was back to 25th.
Meira didn’t give up and by running a clean race after that incident, he climbed to 16th before the contact with Kimball which pitched him into the sand trap backwards. Commentators noted that if a car entered a sand trap forwards the driver could drive through it and come out on track, but if he spun into it backwards, he would spin his wheels trying to extricate himself to no avail. Meira sat helplessly watching the field race by him the final two laps.
He slipped from 13th to 15th in the points standings.
“We have to move forward, giving up is not what we do,” Meira said. “The next race is Kentucky where hopefully we are competitive there. We have a lot of information and good things going for Kentucky so we push onwards and work for a better race result in Kentucky.”
The Kentucky Indy 300 will be broadcast live on Versus on Sunday, October 2, starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.