CHAMPCAR/CART: Bettenhausen Rio Race Report

RACE ENDS TOO EARLY FOR CASTRO-NEVES, TEAM ALUMAX IN RIO 400 RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (May 10)--Helio Castro-Neves was hoping for at least a podium finish in Sunday’s Rio 400 race at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway, the fifth...

RACE ENDS TOO EARLY FOR CASTRO-NEVES, TEAM ALUMAX IN RIO 400

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (May 10)--Helio Castro-Neves was hoping for at least a podium finish in Sunday’s Rio 400 race at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway, the fifth stop on the CART FedEx Championship tour.

What the driver of the Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes-Benz got instead was 54 laps in the 133-lap event and a 23rd-place finish. The culprit in Sunday’s race was a broken throttle position sensor.

“I could not get full throttle--I was only getting half throttle,” said Castro-Neves, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday. “Of course, that is much better than having a stuck throttle, but it still put us out of the race and that is disappointing because I wanted to do so well here.

“Before we had the problem, the car was very good. No, it was excellent, especially as the tires got more wear. I was very happy with the car, and as always, the crew did a great job for me.”

The retirement spoiled a steady drive by the Brazilian rookie.

After starting 11th, Castro-Neves dropped back to 13th in the early portion of the race. But he passed Jimmy Vasser for 12th on Lap 27 and moved into 11th when Michael Andretti had to make an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 37. Castro-Neves then moved into ninth when Gil de Ferran and Paul Tracy crashed in Turn 1 on Lap 40.

When the race resumed on Lap 46, Castro-Neves maintained his position until reporting his problem on the radio on Lap 50. He pitted on Lap 53 and retired from the race on the following lap.

“You hate to come this far and go home with no points to show for your trip,” said team owner Tony Bettenhausen. “At least we are taking both cars home intact, and there were a lot of accidents this weekend. It also hurts because Helio was driving a nice race today.”

In Saturday morning practice, Castro-Neves looked to be a contender for the pole, finishing seventh overall and only .3 of a second off the quick time set by de Ferran.

Castro-Neves opened his qualifying run by recording a 39.594, good for an average speed of 169.480 miles per hour. Lap 2 appeared to be faster, but a wiggle in Turn 4 slowed him down some. The time on his first lap earned him 11th position on the starting grid.

PIT NOTES: Castro-Neves’ qualifying effort was his best yet in five CART starts. It was also the best for a Bettenhausen Motorsports entry since last July when Patrick Carpentier started 12th in the U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway ... Although he had back surgery two weeks ago, Emerson Fittipaldi was able to travel to Rio.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Tony Bettenhausen