CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Race Notes

Gordon's Gearbox and Other Notes By Robin Miller Motegi, Japan -- Robby Gordon's second race as a driver/owner came real close to giving Toyota its first-ever podium finish. Closing in on Christian Fittipaldi and Gil de Ferran, the...

Gordon's Gearbox and Other Notes By Robin Miller Motegi, Japan -- Robby Gordon's second race as a driver/owner came real close to giving Toyota its first-ever podium finish.

Closing in on Christian Fittipaldi and Gil de Ferran, the talented Californian was running fifth with nine laps left, then joined most of the leaders for a late splash of fuel. But he lost second gear on his Johns Manville Reynard/Toyota/Firestone, limped back onto the track and finished the race stuck in first gear.

"I'm elated to finish eighth, mad that I didn't get third and confused as to what actually happened," said Gordon. "I lost the gearbox midway through the race and radioed in that we were done. Then I suddenly found fifth gear and ran it the rest of the day.

"I passed Christian for third leaving the pits on that last stop, shifted into second, and the whole gearbox exploded. But Kenny [Anderson] told me to find a gear and stay out. So I cruised around in first gear to the finish.

"But this was a helluva racecar today. I had power all day, nobody pulled me out there. Toyota was definitely with it."

Stop and Go

Another driver who performed much better than his final result was Helio Castro-Neves.

The Champ Car sophomore started 18th in Carl Hogan's Lola/Mercedes/Firestone, but immediately charged to the front. He got all the way to fourth place before an untimely yellow ruined his day. As he was pitting for the second time, the caution came on just as he came onto pit road. CART rules state the pits are immediately closed when the yellow flag waves.

"My guys said, 'Pit in,' and I said, 'No pit,'" related Castro-Neves. "But they told me to stop, and I did."

The ensuing stop-and-go penalty cost the 23-year-old Brazilian two laps and any chance of contending for a top three finish. But he did turn the fastest lap of the race (215.889 mph) on Lap 136 and has given Lola two straight good runs.

"This is a great team and a great car; we just had some misfortune again," said Castro-Neves. "The Lola's balance was perfect, and that was fun out there today."

Lost Gear, Lost Places

Michael Andretti missed his chance at victory in the season opener at Homestead when he killed the engine on his final pit stop. The same thing happened here Saturday.

"I lost first gear, and the car stalled. If it hadn't, I think we could have won," said CART's all-time winner. "The car was really good, and we had a shot at winning."

There was some consolation for the 36-year-old veteran: "At least this time it wasn't my fault."

Learning Curve

Rookie Juan Montoya finished 13th, and there was definitely some symbolism.

Just as he was attempting to pass Adrian Fernandez for the lead on Lap 139, the yellow flag waved for debris. Montoya's Target Reynard/Honda/Firestone ran out of fuel seconds later -- in the second turn. He lost a lap being towed back in -- and still managed to roar back and unlap himself.

"It was an up-and-down weekend," said Montoya, who was fined and put on probation for crashing Michael Andretti during Thursday's practice. "I learned a lot, but I'm disappointed because we had a winning car today. The way we performed today, I think we are going to be winning races very soon."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Robin Miller