Date/Session: Aug. 9, 1998 Race Report Gugelmin First of Four Mercedes Racers in Mid-Ohio Top 10 Moore& ...
Date/Session: Aug. 9, 1998 Race Report
Gugelmin First of Four Mercedes Racers in Mid-Ohio Top 10 Moores Dominant Run Ends With Pit Lane Mishap
Mauricio Gugelmin gave PacWest Racing its best result of the season in the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes driver led the first 29 of the races 83 laps, eventually finishing fourth--the first of four Mercedes-powered cars among the top 10--behind winner Adrian Fernandez, Scott Pruett and Bobby Rahal.
Gugelmin qualified fourth but took the lead when pole winner Dario Franchitti, Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta tangled on the first lap, eliminating the first three cars from the running. Although handling problems would slow him later, Big Mo led comfortably until the first round of pit stops, earning a bonus point for leading the most laps.
Fellow Mercedes-Benz racer Greg Moore took over the lead when Gugelmin pitted on lap 30 and proceeded to open up a significant gap over the second-place car of Fernandez. Despite his apparent dominance however, Moore was unable to claim his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory. As he attempted to accelerate away from his second pit stop, Moores left rear wheel hit the right rear wheel of Andre Ribeiro, who was pitted next to him. The miscue left the Players/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes stalled in the middle of pit lane with suspension damage.
Marlboro Team Penske enjoyed another competitive race, this time with 100-percent reliability. Al Unser Jr. finished sixth, and teammate Andre Ribeiro, unscathed from the pit lane contact with Moore, finished 10th. Between them was Players/Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier, who finished seventh, the best road course performance of his Champ Car career.
Rookies JJ Lehto and Helio Castro-Neves both had strong runs spoiled by contact. Hogan Racings Lehto ran in the top 10, dicing with and passing veteran Michael Andretti, before being hit by Alex Zanardi during the second half of the race. The Finn finished 15th. Team Alumax driver Castro-Neves looked ready to finish in the points, but contact--again at the hands of Zanardi--ended his day three laps from the checkered flag. He was classified 17th.
Motorola Reynard/Mercedes driver Mark Blundell suffered wing damage in the opening lap melee and was forced to pit for repairs. He climbed back into the top half of the field but crashed on lap 70. Mercedes Quotes Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Fourth "It was a trouble-free day engine-wise. I wouldve loved to be on the podium, and, with a little better handling, we would have gotten there. Maybe next time. Were making tremendous progress, and Im really looking forward to Elkhart Lake. I had the pole there last year. I just want our team to be back up where we belong."
Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Sixth "My car was perfectly balanced during the last stint. We finished with both cars running today, which is a big step forward. Everyone is so competitive, it was really just follow the leader out there. Really, that was not bad at all, though. Were working our way up and getting better every week. It was real busy out there. This was a big boost for the team."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Players/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Seventh "We were lucky to avoid quite a lot of crashes today. This is my best result on a road course by far. Ive never been so tired after a race. I was dehydrated. We just kept the car in one piece. Everything functioned perfectly. The only two times I got passed was when I hit the curbs and the bump would blow the pop-off valve. After a couple of seconds it would be okay, and I would continue. Mercedes-Benz has been working on the engine very hard, and were really getting the power down very well. Now were not wasting our rear tires."
Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 10th "I think what happened (on the incident with Moore) was his crew let him go when I was half inside my pit already. He took off, stopped, and then took off again. He hit me in the rear. It didnt damage my car, it just made my pit stop real slow. The car was definitely the best it has been all weekend. We were strong from the beginning. Its a shame what happened in the pits. We could have had a much better result."
JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 15th "We were very competitive all weekend. What great, fun racing. I think I overtook four cars on the outside. That was my line. It turned out to be the sweet spot for me on this track. But luck is just not on our side. Its getting a little better, but theres still something out there against us."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 17th "At the start, I had to go to the gravel to avoid the other guys, but I said No, not today. Im going to stay on it. And I did. The second set of tires wasnt the best, and I made a mistake in turn two that cost me some positions. But after I made the third stop, the car was okay. I was just pushing, pushing to finish in the top 12 and get a point. Then Zanardi came through so fast, and there was nothing I could do."
Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 19th "I got caught up in that first lap incident. I managed to avoid it but had to go onto the grass. When I came back on, one of the Players cars clipped my front wing, and we had to stop to change the nose. From there we started from the back, working our way through the pack and struggling with the handling a little bit. We had a pretty good car and good pit stops. It was just a tough, tough day."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Players/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 22nd "I was trying to leave the pits, and the back end just came out. I think Andre (Ribeiro) was sticking out of his pit a little too much, and there was just no room. I got waved out of the pits, but my left rear hit Andre's right rear and broke my left suspension."