CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Mercedes-Benz Race Report

Dario Franchitti took the victory and the PPG Cup points lead at Sunday's Indy 300, the penultimate race of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series. The Scotsman's win over Max Papis by 2.609 seconds moved Franchitti nine points ahead of...

Dario Franchitti took the victory and the PPG Cup points lead at Sunday's Indy 300, the penultimate race of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series. The Scotsman's win over Max Papis by 2.609 seconds moved Franchitti nine points ahead of rookie Juan Montoya in the driver's championship standings. Franchitti's winning time of 1:58:40.726 established a new race record for the 65-lap contest over the 2.795-mile temporary street circuit. Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports driver Gualter Salles led the contingent of Mercedes-Benz-powered entries with a 10th place finish, 26.094 seconds behind the winner. Salles, who started 27th, enjoyed consistent handling from his race car and solid pit stops from his crew. The points-paying performance was Salles' best finish in 10 starts this season. Greg Moore started 12th and thrust his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes into eighth place with aggressive maneuvers on the opening-lap chicanes, but was sidelined with an electrical problem on lap 46. Moore was credited with 17th place. PacWest Motorola pilot Mark Blundell, who topped the time sheets in the morning warm-up session, tangled with Jimmy Vasser in Turn Three on lap 27, sliding nose-first into the outside tire barriers. Both drivers restarted and continued on course. Blundell's day ended early, though, when he made contact with Naoki Hattori's race car on Turn Nine of lap 35, damaging his car's right front suspension. Blundell finished in 19th place. Helio Castro-Neves lost the front shock cover on his Hogan Racing Mercedes in the opening laps, but continued to race without telemetry or radio contact with his team. The Brazilian ran as high as 12th place before retiring with a transmission problem on lap 28. Castro-Neves finished 21st. Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes driver Al Unser Jr., the only driver to have started all nine Indy 300 events, started 26th and moved up aggressively to 17th position following a quick pit stop. Unser's race car stalled on track on lap 22, and the veteran was given 22nd place.

Patrick Carpentier made side-to-side contact with Michel Jourdain Jr. in Turn Eight on lap 21, ending his day in 24th place. Meanwhile, Mauricio Gugelmin, who arrived in Surfers Paradise with two top-six finishes in his last three races, started in ninth position but developed a gearbox oil leak in his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes on the opening lap and finished 26th. The FedEx Championship Series moves to Fontana, Calif., for the season-ending Marlboro 500 at California Speedway on October 31.

Mercedes Quotes

Gualter Salles, Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports Mercedes/Firestone (10th/65 laps) "The car was very consistent today. I only wished we had had more time to work with the car over the weekend. The Mercedes engine performed very well. I was able to keep up on the straightaways, and I had no problems whatsoever. The team did a great job with the pit stops, and I gained positions with each stop. After everything this team has gone through this season and this weekend, they really deserved this one. And I deserved it too. It's my last race of the year, and I hope to be back again next year." Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (17th/46 laps) "Our strategy was to conserve fuel. We were getting pretty good mileage, but unfortunately we had the electronics problem. It's too bad for the guys for sure."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (19th/33 laps) "We had a very good race car today. Actually, we had a good car all weekend, but for a number of reasons we didn't get a lot of running time. The car was well balanced and we had the pace * we just couldn't get by people in traffic. Once I got clear, the car was very fast. "I'm disappointed with the deal with Hattori. He made a mistake in Turn 7 and I capitalized on that. I had the next corner, and he turned in. He didn't do himself any favors because he ended up taking us both out."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (21st/28 laps) "The car was very good on old tires. I was able to put pressure on Papis, but unfortunately this was not to be our day. I had a scary moment when the shock cover came off. I couldn't see anything * only the wires for the telemetry and the radio. Of all the strange things that have happened to me on the race track, that will go down as one of the strangest. After that happened, we only had spotty telemetry, and I couldn't really communicate with the team on the radio. I could hear them but they weren't able to hear me. I was cruising after the first stop and then something in the drivetrain broke. All I can say is, 'On to Fontana!"

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (22nd/22 laps) "It's been a long weekend but we had a good race going today. I passed five cars on the first lap, and my car was really hooked up. We had a great pit stop on lap 20. Unfortunately, something happened to the throttle mechanism and I had to park it, ending our day."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (26th/1 lap) "We had some type of gearbox oil leak at the start of the race. All of a sudden, I had a lot of wheel spin, and it was because the oil was spraying on the right rear tire. I did one lap until the gearbox ran out of oil. It's very frustrating because we had an excellent car all weekend. I was ready to go for it, but it just wasn't our day."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gualter Salles , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Naoki Hattori , Greg Moore , Michel Jourdain
Teams Team Penske