CHAMPCAR/CART: Corby: Oval window opens in England

An oval window opens for champ car drivers in England. A window of opportunity has presented itself this weekend for Cristiano da Matta's rivals to close the gap on his series lead before the CART FedEx Championship Series reaches Australia for...

An oval window opens for champ car drivers in England.

A window of opportunity has presented itself this weekend for Cristiano da Matta's rivals to close the gap on his series lead before the CART FedEx Championship Series reaches Australia for the Honda Indy 300 from October 24 to 27.

This weekend the series hits Corby in England for the second annual Rockingham 500 held on an oval speedway.

The window is that five drivers in the race have better average oval-track finishes than da Matta including the drivers sitting right behind him in the series standings, Bruno Junqueira and Dario Franchitti.

The diminutive Brazilian, Da Matta, currently holds a 52-point lead in the championship over fellow Brazilian Junqueira who won the previous round in Denver with Scottish driver Franchitti another 17 points behind.

Da Matta has built his lead on the strength of his road and street course prowess this year, leaving the window ajar this weekend for some of CART's oval specialists.

Junqueira leads all Champ Car drivers in oval track finishes this year with a win from pole position in Japan and a runner-up effort in Chicago, and is one of just three drivers to have earned top-10 placings in each of the three oval events this year.

"We're still in the championship if we can keep performing like we did in Denver," said Junqueira. "I used to live in England, so it's almost like going home for me."

In his Honda-powered Lola, Franchitti will be keen to perform in front of a large British home crowd to stay within reach of the point's lead.

He has had a hit-and-miss season, and remains alive in the championship race due to his two wins in Vancouver and Montreal and a pair of podium finishes on oval circuits.

"Last year the crowd at Rockingham got their first look at Champ Car racing and it was great to be able to put on a good show for them," said Franchitti. "It's the only opportunity for my friends and family to have a chance to go out and see me race without having to journey overseas. It's great to be able to get back to where it all started for me. It feels like I'm getting back to my roots."

Just one week after nearly collecting his first win of the year, Brisbane-born Kiwi Scott Dixon is another Champ Car young gun that has shown considerable oval skill.

He is one of the three drivers to have earned top 10s in the three previous oval races and claimed his only Champ Car win of his career on the Nazareth Speedway oval last year.

Former Formula 1 test driver and International F3000 pilot Darren Manning will make his CART debut in his home country this weekend as he joins the team owned by long-time Champ Car team owner Dale Coyne. Manning is no stranger to success in England, having won the only pole of his F3000 career at Silverstone in 2000 in a race where he would finish a career-best second.

-hi-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Scott Dixon , Dale Coyne