Montoya Wins, Castro-Neves Stars - by John Oreovicz Juan Montoya won the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, but the real star of the weekend was Helio Castro-Neves. The 23 year-old second-year driver from Sao Paulo, Brazil was fast in every session...
Montoya Wins, Castro-Neves Stars - by John Oreovicz
Juan Montoya won the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, but the real star of the weekend was Helio Castro-Neves. The 23 year-old second-year driver from Sao Paulo, Brazil was fast in every session and looked like the only man who could consistently run with Montoya on race day. All the promise came to naught when Castro-Neves slammed his Hogan Racing Mercedes/Lola into Nazareth Speedway's Turn Three wall on the 179th lap.
It was the exclamation mark on an eventful day for Castro-Neves. From the start, he hounded Montoya through traffic and searched for an opportunity to pass. That finally came on lap 39, as Helio got a run off of Turn Two and passed Montoya on the outside of three. When Al Unser Jr. crashed 10 laps later Helio lost his lead during the yellow-flag pit stop.
Castro-Neves continued to stalk Montoya looking for another opportunity, and he seized it on lap 145. Mark Blundell was coming out of the pits from a routine stop, and his slower car unwittingly balked Montoya's. The Hogan Lola again took the lead, but the yellow immediately came out for PJ Jones' spin in Turn One. Again, Montoya gained the lead in the pits, and adding insult to injury, Jones passed Castro-Neves for second on the lap 154 restart. They ran in that order until Helio spun exiting Turn 3 on lap 170. "I'm not real sure what exactly happened..."
"I'm not real sure what exactly happened," Castro-Neves said. "PJ was in front of me and using the same line. Montoya was a little lower, so that was good because I had air all the time so I had no problem. When we came back around PJ all of a sudden he was in my line and the car just lost control. Fortunately I was able to pit for new tires and continue."
Unfortuntately, Castro-Neves stalled his Mercedes motor and lost three laps while getting a tow start. Helio's fateful encounter with the wall came just two laps later.
"I let everybody go, because I wanted go for the fastest race lap," related Castro-Neves "In Turn Two, it felt like the throttle stuck a little bit, but then it stopped. So I figured it was just me, maybe just not feeling things exactly right at that second. I touched the brake, and it was fine. I headed toward three and the throttle stuck. When I hit the brakes, the pedal went straight to the floor. The next thing I knew I was in the wall." Despite suffering bruises to his right elbow and knee, Castro-Neves remained upbeat after arguably the most impressive showing of his Champ Car career. "Of course it's not the way we wanted to end the weekend, but all we can do now is go to Rio and try to repeat what we did here - with a better outcome!" Based on Sunday's performance, that wouldn't be a surprise.
Source: CART Online