MAXIMUM EFFORT Mexico City, Mexico (November 11, 2007) -- To the thousands of exuberant fans in the grandstands at today's season-ending Tecate Grand Prix of Mexico, as well as viewers watching at home, it ...
Mexico City, Mexico (November 11, 2007) -- To the thousands of exuberant fans in the grandstands at today's season-ending Tecate Grand Prix of Mexico, as well as viewers watching at home, it doubtless appeared that Minardi Team USA had a disastrous race. First, 'Speedy' Dan Clarke failed to complete the opening lap, and then Robert Doornbos cruised slowly back to the pits on lap 3, both cars suffering clutch problems. Sadly, that looked to be the end of the road for the Indianapolis-based squad. With Robert requiring only a single point to lock Will Power out of third place in the championship, however, the team made a bold decision to roll the No 14 car back to the garage, replace the clutch and send the driver back out. Robert would then have just one mission -- to claim the fastest race lap, and with it, the single point that would secure third place. And that is exactly what happened.
To loud cheers from the crowd, the 'Flying Dutchman' rejoined the race on lap 38, and then proceeded to run what amounted to a pair of flat-out, three-lap qualifying runs. His best time was a scintillating 1 min 24.713 secs, putting the single point for fastest lap beyond the reach of his rivals. It had been a fantastic effort from Robert, but no less than from his mechanics. From the time the problem arose on the No 14 car to it rejoining the race, only 51 minutes elapsed. In that time, his crew had stripped the car of its bodywork, dropped the floor, split the engine and gearbox, replaced the clutch and then reassembled everything. Their reward was to see Robert become the highest finishing Champ Car rookie since Juan Pablo Montoya, in 1999.
"It's really not the way we wanted to finish the season. We worked hard all weekend for a mega result today, and judging on our lap times, we could have accomplished just that. We had one of the fastest cars out there, but it's a mechanical sport, and these things happen. I have to give a big, big thank you to all the mechanics who got me back out on the track, just to make sure we didn't lose third place (in the overall Championship). All in all, I've thoroughly enjoyed this year -- it's a great group of people at Minardi Team USA, but third place isn't good enough and we'll have to do better next season."
'Speedy' Dan Clarke
"I was really looking forward to a great race here in Mexico City, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. Obviously it's disappointing to finish off the season this way, but these things happen. I'm glad to see all the enthusiastic fans show their support here and hopefully next year they will come out to cheer us on again. We'll gladly seal the envelope on the 2007 season - put it all behind us - and focus on 2008."
Keith Wiggins, Team Co-owner
"It was extremely frustrating to compare what happened this afternoon with what could have been by looking at Justin Wilson's result. That said, the boys did a great job, and as a result, we gave ourselves the opportunity to secure third place in the Championship. It's not what we came to do -- that was to finish second in the final standings -- but we'll come back and put it right next year."
Paul Stoddart, Team Co-owner
"After a horrendous start to the Tecate Grand Prix of Mexico, what a fantastic recovery by Minardi Team USA, made possible by the efforts of every single member of the team -- and especially all of the mechanics -- and a world-class performance from Robert to do what he had to do, and take that single point for the fastest race lap when it really mattered. Well done to everybody. The Minardi trademark is that the impossible is done immediately; miracles take a little bit longer. We had one of the latter today."