CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Race Notes

Sunday, 18 October 1998 An Action-Packed Race Ends Under Yellow Christine Hogan - Motorsport News International The pace cars started to lead the Champ cars through the three pace laps shortly before 2 pm. The track temperature was 130F...

Sunday, 18 October 1998

An Action-Packed Race Ends Under Yellow Christine Hogan - Motorsport News International

The pace cars started to lead the Champ cars through the three pace laps shortly before 2 pm. The track temperature was 130F with an ambient temperature of 88F. When the green flag waved, Dario Franchitti led from pole, with his teammate Paul Tracy getting past both Alex Zanardi, who dropped back to fourth, and Christian Fittipaldi who maintained his grid position of third. There was some action at turn 1 with some cars going through two abreast, but fortunately no contact, and everyone got away cleanly.

In the first lap, Alex Zanardi managed to regain the two positions that he lost on the start, moving ahead of Paul Tracy to within .812 seconds of leader Dario Franchitti by the end of the lap. Michael Andretti and Gil de Ferran both got past Bryan Herta to move into fifth and sixth respectively.

On the third lap Arnd Meier was shown the black flag after course observers report spray coming from the back of the car at speed. He pitted on the following lap with oil coming from the right side of the engine. He subsequently retired from the race due to an oil leak. Franchitti increased his lead over Alex Zanardi to 1.392 on lap 5, with the rest of the top 5 staying the same.

5 laps later, Alex Zanardi had reduced Dario Franchitti's lead to .718 seconds. Third through fifth were Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi, and Michael Andretti. Dario Franchitti and Alex Zanardi had opened up a gap of almost 12 seconds over Paul Tracy, with about four seconds between third and fourth place and the same between fourth and fifth.

The first of seven full course yellows occurred on lap 13 when Michel Jourdain, Jr. spun and stalled between turns 9 and 10. The top 13 cars pitted and Alex Zanardi won the race out of pit road followed by Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti. Patrick Carpentier did not pit, and moved up into sixth, from fourteenth. Michel Jourdain, Jr. subsequently retired from the race due to contact. Racing resumed on lap 16.

Al Unser, Jr. and Richie Hearn made side to side contact exiting turn 11 on lap 19. Unser was forced to pit with left front suspension damage, and the wheel cocked at a 45 degree angle. He lost 3 laps as the crew replaced wishbone and sent him back out. While Unser was in the pits, the second yellow flag came out as Bobby Rahal ended his race prematurely by spinning backwards into the outside wall at turn 10. The top five were unchanged, but Carpentier pitted from sixth and dropped back to twentieth. One lap later, still under yellow, Greg Moore pitted and dropped from twelfth to twenty third.

Racing resumed on lap 24. One lap later, Zanardi had increased his lead to .818 seconds over Dario Franchitti. Al Unser, Jr. brushed the wall again at turn 4 on lap 25, but continued with no apparent damage. Zanardi continued to increase his lead over Franchitti in the ensuing laps, while Fittipaldi takes advantage of a small mistake by Tracy approaching the ANA Hotel corner. He closed up the gap, and passed Tracy at the next corner. Michael Andretti tried to pass Paul Tracy for fourth on the next lap, but Tracy successfully blocked him. Gil de Ferran was in sixth, followed by Bryan Herta, Adrian Fernandez, Jimmy Vasser and Scott Pruett at the half-way mark.

On lap 34 Michael Andretti hit Paul Tracy's left rear tire with his right front wing approaching turn 5. Andretti's wing was damaged and brushing the ground. Tracy suffered more severe damage as he shot across the chicane with his left rear smoking. As he spun exiting the turn his tire shredded. He limped back to the pits with the tire off the rim, and later re-entered the race with suspension and brake damage. There may be disciplinary action taken as a result of this incident, but that won't be decided until Fontana because there was no stewards' trailer in which to review the tape at this track. At Fontana, both drivers will appear before the stewards for a hearing.

The third yellow flag occurred on lap 35 to replace the tire mat at turn 7. Three laps earlier the competitors had been advised that it had become dislodged. The top nine positions pitted immediately, and the race off pit row was led by Zanardi, followed by Franchitti and Fittipaldi, who come out ahead of Carpentier and Ribeiro, who did not pit.

Racing re-commenced on lap 37 only to be stopped again on lap 39 when Jimmy Vasser lost his chance of retaining second place over Franchitti in the championship. Vasser's right front made contact with Castro-Nevess left rear, causing Vasser to go off-course and hit the outside wall hard, before coming to rest in the grass of turn 1. Castro-Neves continued on course with no apparent damage. Carpentier pitted during the yellow period, giving up seventh place.

Racing resumed for one lap before the next yellow on lap 42. Zanardi was leading Franchitti, Fittipaldi, Ribeiro and Gugelmin. The fifth yellow was caused by Richie Hearn spinning at turn 12. The marshals got the car going again, and Hearn continued to the pits with slight damage to his front wing. Ribeiro and Gugelmin pitted, relinquishing their positions to Gil de Ferran and Bryan Herta.

Racing resumed on lap 44, and Paul Tracy retired one lap later with brake problems from his incident with Michael Andretti. On the same lap Andre Ribeiro had side-to-side contact with Alex Barron, but both cars continued with no apparent damage.

Gil de Ferran dropped back from fourth to sixth on lap 49 as Bryan Herta tried to pass him on the outside of turn 5, and got the inside line on turn 6, completing the pass. Gil de Ferran was forced to back off the throttle exiting turn 6 as he ran out of room, and Scott Pruett managed to capitalize on the situation and get passed de Ferran as well.

The sixth yellow flag came out on lap 55 when Helio Castro-Neves made hard contact with the wall at turn 2. His car was too damaged to continue and has to be removed by the safety workers. Zanardi pitted, handing the lead briefly to Franchitti. Gil de Ferran and Max Papis also pitted from eighth and ninth. On the following lap Franchitti pitted, handing the lead back to Alex Zanardi. Fittipaldi and Herta also pitted on lap 56. Franchitti and Fittipaldi regained second and third positions when they exited the pits, while Herta dropped to eleventh. Fourth and fifth places were occupied by Scott Pruett and JJ Lehto. While the course was still under a yellow flag, CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach determined that it would be a timed race.

Racing resumed on lap 58, until lap 60 when the seventh and final yellow flag appeared. Alex Barron spun across the chicane at turn 2, Andretti slowed to avoid him and got hit from behind by Richie Hearn. All three cars retired due to contact. On the following lap, the white flag was shown to Alex Zanardi. Max Papis stalled at turn 8 under yellow, and retired due to electrical problems.

On lap 62, the checkered flag waved for Alex Zanardi with the course still under a yellow flag. Dario Franchitti followed him through to take second, with Christian Fittipaldi third. The remaining points-paying positions were taken by (in order) Scott Pruett, JJ Lehto, Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan, Greg Moore, Patrick Carpentier, Bryan Herta, Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin.

In the post race press conference, Alex Zanardi said that it was great to be back in the winners circle. He was disappointed yesterday when he failed to get pole, as he has not had a pole yet this year, but he was very excited today after winning the race. He said that his late splash-and-go pit stop was a hard call, but Chip Ganassi made the call the right way as he has done all year. He said that he knew he had the car to do the job and that once he got in front he would be able to drive away. He said that Franchitti had more to lose since he was trying for second place in the championship, and that if Franchitti had made a mistake trying to stay head of him, it would have been an ideal result for the team. He said that Franchitti was cool enough, and the best that he could do for Jimmy Vasser was to finish in front of Franchitti. He said that he and Franchitti had the advantage of tires over third-placed Fittipaldi, as the Firestones worked very well at this circuit. He said that he hopes to finish on the podium in Fontana, preferably in the middle, as the difference between first and third place in Fontana is $940,000. He said that the super speedways are a bit of a lottery and it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. He said that Franchitti has a reasonable chance at the championship next year, and he would not be surprised to see him win it. However, racing in this series is close, and he hopes that next year's champion will be his friend and teammate Jimmy Vasser. He said that he will miss the ovals, as he loves the speed, but that he his happy not to be racing on them any more as they are more dangerous than road courses, and not racing on them any more will reduce his personal risk level. He also said that he loved Surfers Paradise and he would have to come back here on vacation with his family.

Dario Franchitti said that he had a great time here in Surfer's Paradise. His second place finish, and moving into second in the championship were a great end to the week. He said that he tried to push Alex hard, and he thinks he did a good job of that. He said that the first stop was not good, and he lost some time on the entry and exit because he had to make his way around Tracy's pit crew on the way in and tires on his way out. He said that it is hard to say how he would have done without the final yellow, but he doubted that he could have passed Zanardi because Zanardi's car seemed to have the edge. He said that he feels very fortunate to have had the opportunities that he has had in his career and that he believes there was a lot of luck involved in rising to the top so quickly. He said that Fontana will be a struggle because Vasser is always strong at the ovals, but that he hopes to retain second in the championship.

Christian Fittipaldi said that they have had a tough time all year, and that he is very happy with how this weekend went. He wanted to win the race very badly, but both Zanardi and Franchitti drove a hell of a race and didn't make any mistakes. He said he was trying to keep up, but it wasn't possible. He said that it was a good way to finish, and he hopes to finish the season on a high note, and take up where he leaves off next year. He said that he didn't think Paul Tracy was expecting him to overtake where he did, but that he was able to catch up when Tracy made a mistake coming down towards the hotel.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Al Unser Sr. , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto