CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Mercedes Race Report

Race: Firestone Firehawk 500, Twin Ring Motegi (Japan) Date/Session: Saturday, April 10, 1999 Race Results Mercedes Powers Three Top-10 Finishers at Motegi Miami Champ Moore Fourth After Late-Race Spin--Castro-Neves Flies ...

Race:           Firestone Firehawk 500, Twin Ring Motegi (Japan)
Date/Session:   Saturday, April 10, 1999        Race Results

Mercedes Powers Three Top-10 Finishers at Motegi Miami Champ Moore Fourth After Late-Race Spin--Castro-Neves Flies

The Mercedes-Benz IC108E V8 engine powered three Champ car drivers to top-10 finishes and recorded the fastest lap of competition at the Firestone Firehawk 500, the second round of the CART FedEx Championship Series, at the 1.549-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan.

The race ended in disappointment for Mercedes-Benz. Player's/Forsythe driver Greg Moore, PPG Cup points leader and winner of the Miami season-opener, was poised for a potential race-winning pass of Adrian Fernandez coming off a yellow flag on lap 197 of the 201-lap event. Fernandez was desperately low on fuel and was expected to make a pit stop before the final lap. But, while exiting turn four coming down for the green flag on lap 199, Moore spun his Champ car down the front straight and lost two positions on the race track. Moore managed to not hit the wall or another competitor, but his spin brought out the yellow flag again and he finished fourth. And with that yellow Fernandez was able to forego a splash-and-go fuel stop and went on to win his second-consecutive race at Motegi.

Meanwhile, PacWest Hollywood veteran Mauricio Gugelmin, starting from the front row, led for 21 laps. But brake problems caused Gugelmin to run over an air hose during his first pit stop, resulting in a stop-and-go penalty that put him a lap down to the competition. He finished seventh.

Hogan Racing's Helio Castro-Neves, running as high as fourth early in the race, finished ninth despite a penalty for a pit-lane violation. Castro-Neves recorded the fastest lap with a time of 25.830 seconds (215.889 mph) on lap 136. "Our performance today shows that the Mercedes-Benz IC108E V8 has the power to run at the front," said Hal Whiteford, vice president of operations for Mercedes-Benz of North America. "We had three drivers who were capable of winning today, but it wasn't meant to be. It shows great promise for us for the rest of the season."

Rookie Tarso Marques, making his Champ car debut in the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes, ran a consistent race and finished 14th. The Brazilian earned the ride with Roger Penske's team after veteran Al Unser Jr. was injured in a crash during the season-opener. He will substitute for Unser at the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix next weekend as well.

Bettenhausen Motorsports/Epson/Mercedes rookie and Japanese native Shigeaki Hattori finished 20th, dropping out on lap 140 with clutch problems.

Gugelmin's PacWest teammate, Mark Blundell, pitted his Motorola race car on lap 78 with a suspension problem and subsequently withdrew from the race to finish in 24th position. Player's/Forsythe pilot Patrick Carpentier pitted his car with mechanical problems on lap 10 and finished 26th.

Mercedes Quotes

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Fourth) "The car was really, really loose, and coming out of turn four the back end came around. I stood on the gas and didn't think about braking. It was kind of a burnout going backwards. This happened to me in Rio during qualifying last year, but that time I spun and stayed on the gas. The car ran great, and the team gave me great stops. Luckily we're still ahead in the points."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (Seventh) "It's unfortunate that we had a problem because we had a good car. Every time I touched the brakes, the rear would lock up. Even on the track I had to be careful, so it was tough. The team did a great job, but after our first pit stop we were pretty far behind. Nevertheless it was a good effort from the whole team and I'm looking forward to the next race."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (Ninth) "We had a great engine and a great set up today. I have to be happy, but of course I am disappointed. On the pit lane penalty: "The team told me to pit, and I saw the red sign, but I stuck with my team. I thought we were low on fuel and had to pit. I'm sure we could have finished higher."

Tarso Marques, No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (14th) "My goal today was to finish the race, and get some experience in traffic and with the pit stops. The most difficult part of today was the traffic. Even with all the coaching, nothing can prepare you for your first oval race and the feel of the car in traffic. The Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes was very consistent today, and the team gave me great stops. I learned a lot today, and hopefully the next time it will be much easier for me."

Shigeaki Hattori, No. 16, Bettenhausen Motorsports/Epson/Mercedes/Firestone (20th) "At the beginning of the race the car was still a little difficult to drive, but the second set of tires were excellent and the car was much more stable. I felt confident in the car."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (24th) "The rear roll bar was not staying in one position. It was moving around as I was going around. It nearly put me in the wall on turn two twice. You just can't drive like that. You have to park it."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (26th) "We had a mechanical problem today and something finally gave. We saw this problem a little bit in the warm-up, but we didn't change anything -- maybe we should have. I had a great car today but it was not to be."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Shigeaki Hattori , Adrian Fernandez , Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Roger Penske , Greg Moore , Al Unser
Teams Team Penske