Team 7-Eleven's Kanaan Basks in First Race of Champions - Nations Cup Appearance
PARIS, France (Dec. 4, 2004) - 2004 Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series champion Tony Kanaan did not win in his first Race of Champions - Nations Cup appearance Saturday night in Paris, France, but that result did nothing to diminish his appreciation for the invitation to appear in the 17th edition of the elite, international all-star event.
Kanaan, who dominated the IndyCar Series in 2004 behind the wheel of the #11 Team 7- Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing, was one of 16 drivers to compete in this year's race at Stade de France and was part of the two-man team representing Brazil.
The event consists of two separate races - the first, an individual event (Race of Champions) pitting drivers from various racing series around the world and the second (Nations Cup), an eight-team competition featuring seven countries, including the United States.
In the Race of Champions, Kanaan was matched against home-country favorite Sebastien Loeb of France, who won the 2004 World Rally Championship. Kanaan beat Loeb to the line at the end of the two-lap sprint, but was penalized for brushing the wall with his car, which gave the victory to Loeb. Finland's Heikki Kovalainen went on to claim the Race of Champions title over Loeb in the final round.
In Nations Cup competition, the Brazilian team of Kanaan and Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa defeated the German team in the opening round, with Massa ousting F1 World Champ Michael Schumacher and Kanaan besting World Rally driver Armin Schwarz. In the semi-final round, Kanaan and Massa were defeated by eventual champion France, with Massa losing to DTM driver Jean Alesi and Kanaan losing to Loeb in a rematch that saw Kanaan's car stall at the start, sealing his fate.
(ON THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS) "At the drivers meeting, they said that they would make a race director's judgment as to whether you took advantage of the hit with the wall. I didn't even feel it, so I couldn't have hit it very hard. But, it's tough in my case. He (Loeb) is the star of the show and you take him out in the first run? Whatever - it still makes me feel good because I still beat him. I didn't win because of that (touching the wall).
"But, I'm not upset. I'm just happy to be here. It's really an honor to be a part of this group. I mean, how many drivers are there in the world? There were only 16 of us invited to be here. That says a lot. I've had a lot of fun. I'm here for the sport. My wife was more upset than I was (about the penalty)."
(ON THE NATIONS CUP) "That was fun. That was the time for revenge (against Loeb), but unfortunately the clutch in that car was very different than the first car that I drove. I kept it full- throttle (at the start), but it died on me. When I stalled the engine, I heard the crowd cheering so much (for Loeb), so it's probably better that I lost. Can you imagine if I had won? I think the crowd (estimated at 60,000) would have jumped onto the track and just beaten the crap out of me.
"I had fun, though. I'd never driven a Rally car before and I beat a couple of guys. I did my job - I came here to have fun and I did."