The fifth round of the Champ Car World Series at Cleveland was an emotional roller-coaster for Justin Wilson and his Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team. Justin's race ended at the first corner on Lap 1, the day after his stunning qualifying...
The fifth round of the Champ Car World Series at Cleveland was an emotional roller-coaster for Justin Wilson and his Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team. Justin's race ended at the first corner on Lap 1, the day after his stunning qualifying performance shook up the Champ Car establishment once again to put him P2 alongside polesitter Paul Tracy.
As the green flag signalled the start of the race at Burke Lakefront Airport on the shores of Lake Erie, the cars powered down the very wide start-finish straight, spreading out to take different lines into the first corner. Paul Tracy led the field towards Turn 1, taking a wide line in the Forsythe-Lola, followed by Wilson who preserved his second position from Sebastien Bourdais and AJ Allmendinger.
Justin tried to take the lead by going to Tracy's inside, but as he made for the apex he had to straighten up suddenly to avoid Alex Tagliani who had steamed down the inside from Row 3 on the grid. Wilson's avoiding action caused a tank-slapper that put his car in contact with Paul Tracy's, causing terminal damage to both.
Though he was caught up in the aftermath, Tagliani went on to finish 3rd, led home by Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira, the pair scoring another 1-2 for the Newman Haas team.
Before the race Tracy, Wilson and Bourdais had noted the risk of problems at the wide entry to the corner. Cleveland is renowned for its first corner incidents, and this was the 5th consecutive year when cars had tangled at the start. But that was no consolation to Wilson who was gutted to be out of the race after demonstrating his and the car's pace once again during qualifying.
"It's very disappointing because we've done a lot of work on the car and we knew that it would be really competitive. The front row should have been a good platform for a podium finish".
The day before, Justin and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing had celebrated their highest ever Champ Car qualifying position (their earlier record of 3rd in qualifying having also been set by Justin in Monterrey, Mexico) with a lap time of 57.954 - Justin and Paul Tracy were the only two drivers to do sub-58 second lap times.
Though disappointed with the weekend's outcome, Justin and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing are confident of continuing their strong form together and translating that into podiums and wins in the rest of the season. "It's a shame, for me, for Conquest and for Paul and Forsythe that we're out of the race. But the plus side is that we know we can do it now. The Mi-Jack Conquest team have done an excellent job all weekend. We're going to get this chance again, I'm sure of it. We'll keep fighting on."
The Champ Car World Series now heads to Toronto for next Sunday's Molson Indy street race at Exhibition Place.