CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Vancouver race report

Team Green teammates Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti dominated Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver, as Canadian native son Tracy captured his 18th career win by 0.384 seconds over Franchitti. It was the first triumph for a Canadian driver at...

Team Green teammates Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti dominated Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver, as Canadian native son Tracy captured his 18th career win by 0.384 seconds over Franchitti. It was the first triumph for a Canadian driver at the 1.781-mile temporary street circuit. Tracy took over the lead from pole-sitter and race leader Franchitti on Lap 52 of 90 laps when Franchitti stalled his race car exiting the pits. With the victory by 0.384 seconds, Tracy closed the gap on championship points leader Michael Andretti to six points with five races remaining in the season.

For Mercedes-Benz drivers, it was a rough-and-tumble race as four of the five pilots tangled with competitors in the first 14 laps of the 90-lap contest. In fact, Luiz Garcia Jr. was the sole Mercedes driver to escape the race unscathed, finishing 15th.

The first victim of the crashfest was Mark Blundell. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the veteran Motorola PacWest Mercedes driver. On Lap Two, teammates Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani made side-to-side contact at the chicane in Turn 10, causing Carpentier to slide into the tire barrier. Unfortunately, Blundell -- coming around the corner at speed -- had no time to react and slid into Carpentier's car. Blundell was forced to retire in 25th place. "I was committed to a wide line through that corner because my car had no grip today," Blundell said. "Pat's car was in the way, and there was simply nothing I could do."

Shortly after, Michel Jourdain Jr. tangled with fellow Mercedes driver Tony Kanaan entering Turn One when Oriol Servia slowed sharply ahead of Kanaan. Jourdain Jr. bumped Kanaan from behind under hard braking, and Jourdain Jr.'s car slid to a stop near the outside tire barrier. The Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports race car sustained suspension damage, forcing Jourdain Jr. to retire. He finished 23rd.

"I saw Oriol had a problem, and thought Tony would go outside," said Jourdain Jr., who had enjoyed a season-best provisional qualifying session on Friday and celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday. "But he braked hard instead, and I couldn't avoid contact. I'm disappointed because my car was one the best out there today. My team worked very hard, and deserved a better result today."

Kanaan was able to continue, but pitted three laps later so that his team could inspect the rear suspension of his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes. After diagnosing a broken toe link, the crew repaired his racing machine and the Brazilian pilot returned to the fray in 20th place, four laps down. Kanaan soldiered on to a 14th-place finish.

"It really takes the wind out of your sails when you lose laps early in the race like that, especially when it's not your fault," Kanaan said. "It's really unfortunate because the crew had the car well balanced for me today after we struggled in qualifying yesterday. But we turned good laps, and managed to finish where we started."

Mauricio Gugelmin was the fourth Mercedes driver to fall victim to contact. Gugelmin, who had hoped to repeat his 1997 victory at Concord Pacific Place, saw his day end on Lap 14 when Tarso Marques lost control of his car and drove into the side of Gugelmin's Nextel PacWest Mercedes. Both Marques and Gugelmin slid into the run-off area at Turn Six and retired from the race. Gugelmin was 21st.

"I think Tarso had a puncture in his right-rear tire and he just locked up his brakes," Gugelmin said. "It wasn't his fault, but there wasn't anywhere for me to go."

The CART FedEx Championship Series moves to the wine country of northern California for the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca on Sept. 10.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Oriol Servia , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr. , Mo Nunn