CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca - won from the pole

By John Francis - Motorsport.com Both CART and Formula One ran a race this weekend. And, as we have almost come to expect, one race was pretty much a parade, with the leader running away from the pack and the other cars finishing pretty much...

By John Francis - Motorsport.com

Both CART and Formula One ran a race this weekend. And, as we have almost come to expect, one race was pretty much a parade, with the leader running away from the pack and the other cars finishing pretty much where they qualified (with more passes made in the pits than on the track, including positions lost by a front- running car due to misfortunes during a pit stop), while the other race was full of incidents including an early-round crash (instigated by two team-mates coming together) that took out much of the field, and too many laps run under yellow behind a pace car. Unusually, though, the incident-packed race was the F1 Italian GP at Monza.

The Champ Car race at Laguna Seca was mostly uneventful, with almost all the fight for position having been done during the late Friday qualifying session. Dario Franchitti was quite outspoken before the race, suggesting that Laguna Seca was not well suited to passing under the modern CART car specifications. Unfortunately these criticisms seem to be well founded - apart from the (in)famous Zanardi-Herta incident in the Corkscrew the last few years have not produced many passes for on-track position amongst the front runners.

From the moment the green flag waved the two Penske cars seemed determined to continue this tradition. Third-place qualifier Franchitti did his best to stay with them, but was unable to avoid gradually dropping back by about a quarter of a second per lap. Meanwhile Juan Montoya had managed to get around Bryan Herta on the first lap to take over fourth place, and was setting his sights on the leaders as the first pit stops drew near. Franchitti was the first to pit, followed a lap later by Castroneves and de Ferran. This handed the lead to Montoya for a lap until his stop. The Target Ganassi team made their customary lightning-fast stop, and Montoya ended up in second place behind Castroneves after the field re-established a running order.

Not much happened for the next twenty minutes until Papis and Moreno got involved in a serious battle for position. It all started up in the corkscrew. The fighting continued all the way down the hill through turns 9 & 10, culminating in an inside pass made by Moreno as the two cars approached the turn eleven hairpin. He was unable to make a tight turn and ran wide on the exit, which allowed Papis to come up alongside as the cars turned onto the front straight. Despite being on the dirty inside line (and despite Moreno taking quite a dirty line himself, almost running Papis off the track into the pit wall) Max won the drag race up the hill and was ahead through the infield section of the course. Roberto was trying as hard as he could to retake the position. As the cars approached turn five he tried a little _too_ hard, and the car got away from him under braking and spun off course into the outside wall. He had to leap out of his car pretty fast, as Alex Tagliani spun off at almost the same place just a few seconds later. This eventually brought out a full-course yellow to remove the #20 car, whereupon most of the field took the opportunity to make their second pit stops. This time Montoya did not have such a good stop - his front air jacks failed while the tires were being changed, and valuable time was lost while the manual jack was deployed. This dropped Montoya back to eighth.

After this second round of stops the race order was once again Castroneves ahead of de Ferran and Franchitti, followed by Andretti (who has not yet made his second stop), Herta, and Brack. It was uncertain whether the leaders would have to stop again - the track goes green again with twenty-nine laps remaining in the race. This distance may be possible to achieve without a splash-and-go, but it would be close. Everybody (except Tracy, who topped up at the end of the yellow, and Andretti, who was out of sequence) then settled down into a fuel economy run. And that was how things finished - pretty much as they started.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti