Unser On Top for Mercedes-Benz Marlboro Team Penske Cars Survive Difficult Day For the second week in a row, Al Unser Jr. was the highest-finishing driver among the eight-car Mercedes-Benz CART FedEx Championship Series Team. Unser ran with the...
Unser On Top for Mercedes-Benz Marlboro Team Penske Cars Survive Difficult Day
For the second week in a row, Al Unser Jr. was the highest-finishing driver among the eight-car Mercedes-Benz CART FedEx Championship Series Team. Unser ran with the leaders through all 83 laps of the Grand Prix of Monterey, finishing sixth while Bryan Herta finally scored his first Champ Car win in a close battle with 1998 PPG Cup Champion Alex Zanardi.
Unser's teammate Andre Ribeiro piloted the only other Mercedes-powered car to make it to the finish. Ribeiro finished 14th despite a mid-race pit lane mishap. The air hose, which is attached to the car during pit stops to operate the pneumatic jacks, jammed in the connector at the top of the car, tearing off as Ribeiro accelerated away. No one was injured, but the penalty Ribeiro was assessed for the pit lane infraction prevented a better finish.
Player's/Forsythe Racing driver Greg Moore, still in the hunt for second place in the drivers championship, ran in the lead pack for most of the race, conserving fuel and biding his time for a late-race charge. But his day ended early when the Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes lost fuel pressure on lap 70. His teammate Patrick Carpentier also left the race before the wave of the checkered flag in a multi-car accident on a re-start. Moore was credited with 21st, Carpentier 17th.
Team Alumax rookie Helio Castro-Neves was among the quickest in the field but spun early as a result of a faulty clutch. He continued but was taken out when rookie Alex Barron hit him from behind on lap 70 during a caution period. He ended the day ranked 22nd.
The PacWest Racing duo of Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin endured another disappointing weekend as Gugelmin's Hollywood car overheated 13 laps into the race and Blundell's Motorola mount was felled by a failed throttle linkage.
JJ Lehto's race was over almost before it started, his Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes suffering suspension damage as he was collected in a first-lap crash.
Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Sixth
"This was a good day for Marlboro Team Penske. We ran with the leaders all day, and we're really showing the power of the Mercedes, which has come on strong the last few races. The car is reliable. I can beat it up, and it keeps on running. I'm just really pleased with the whole effort and the team."
Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 14th
"My Marlboro Penske/Mercedes was running well. Our pit strategy was to come in early to separate us from the rest of the field. Unfortunately, the track went yellow just as I came in for my first stop. On my second stop, the air jack got stuck in the car, and it snapped off as I was leaving the pits. This gave us a black flag penalty which put us back to 17th position. It was a frustrating day for us, but it's good to see that Al had a strong finish, and the car continues to improve."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 17th
"I don't know what it is these days, but we've had a lot of bad luck. We saved fuel the entire race, so we feel we could have moved up to the top five towards the end when the rest of the field would have had to pit. We didn't want that late yellow. We thought today was going to be our best result of the year."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 21st
"We were conserving a lot of fuel, so we could make a run at the end. Then, on that late yellow, I was running about 35 mph, and the engine just shut off. We had no fuel pressure. The race car was good before that. We were running competitive times. We had a good car today, but we didn't get to show it."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 22nd
"Everybody slowed down for the yellow, and to keep from passing Andre (Ribeiro), I braked and moved to the left. I don't know what happened. Alex (Barron) hit me hard in the back. He must have seen me. I guess he just came up too quickly. I was driving without the clutch most of the time. That's what happened when I spun earlier. I went to shift down and the clutch pedal just went to the floor."
Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 25th
"We ran into the problem that has bugged us all season. The throttle wouldn't give me 100 percent. I was holding people up. We had this same problem at Toronto and Detroit. It's a shame because the race car was good. For the safety of myself and others I just had to park it."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 27th
"We had a problem with the cooling system and overheated the engine. I don't know what happened, but we suspect a leak either in the radiator or in a pipe. The track was slippery, but it's unfortunate because it was going to be a good race. To go out so early is really sad."
JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 28th
"I was just coming into turn two clean, side by side with Michael (Andretti). Then Christian (Fittipaldi) came and rushed in, lost control, went over the curb and hit me. That knocked me into Michael and damaged the right front suspension. You can't win the race in the first corner."
Grand Prix of Monterey Race Report Laguna Seca Raceway Sept. 13, 1998
Pos. Driver Chassis/Engine/Tires Laps 1 Bryan Herta Reynard/Ford/Firestone 83 2 Alex Zanardi Reynard/Honda/Firestone 83 3 Tony Kanaan Reynard/Honda/Firestone 83 4 Dario Franchitti Reynard/Honda/Firestone 83 5 Jimmy Vasser Reynard/Honda/Firestone 83 6 Al Unser Jr. Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear 83 7 Adrian Fernandez Reynard/Ford/Firestone 83 8 Paul Tracy Reynard/Honda/Firestone 83 9 Christian Fittipaldi Swift/Ford/Goodyear 83 10 Michael Andretti Swift/Ford/Goodyear 83 14 Andre Ribeiro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear 83 17 Patrick Carpentier Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 76 21 Greg Moore Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 70 22 Helio Castro-Neves Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear 70 25 Mark Blundell Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 31 27 Mauricio Gugelmin Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 13 28 JJ Lehto Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone 1
Driver's Points: Alex Zanardi 234 Manufacturer's Points: Honda 301
Jimmy Vasser 136 Ford 258
Adrian Fernandez 126 Mercedes 192 Dario Franchitti 122
Contact Scott McKee, Mercedes-Benz Sports Information Bureau, in Monterey at 831-646-1238 (track) or 831-649-4234 (hotel).