Toronto, Ontario, July 15, 2001 In fitting and dramatic fashion, Canadian driver Alex Tagliani of Team Player's earned his first-ever FedEx CART Championship podium on Sunday by finishing second at Molson Indy Toronto, one of two races in the ...
Toronto, Ontario, July 15, 2001 In fitting and dramatic fashion, Canadian driver Alex Tagliani of Team Player's earned his first-ever FedEx CART Championship podium on Sunday by finishing second at Molson Indy Toronto, one of two races in the series where he has the opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd.
Tagliani, competing in his second season in the CART series, hung tough in a grueling race that only 12 of 26 starters were able to finish. After starting fifth on the grid, Tagliani combined his driving savvy with some superb strategy and car preparation by the Team Player's crew to press leader and eventual winner, American Michael Andretti for the final 25 laps of the 95-lap event while keeping Mexico's Adrian Fernandez behind him. The victory by Andretti was his second straight and seventh of his career in Toronto. The race attracted a crowd of 73,628, the largest attendance in the event's 16-year history.
Tagliani's teammate Patrick Carpentier had a promising first half of the race, climbing from 12th on the grid to as high as fifth. But in attempting to pass Scott Dixon for seventh place after a re-start on lap 52, Carpentier went a bit deep in turn 1 and the car went into a tailspin, resulting in damage to the gearbox and rear wing and forcing him out of the race.
The performance by Tagliani, who along with Carpentier and Paul Tracy, comprised the Canadian contingent in the event, was the best ever by a Team Player's driver at the Molson Indy Toronto, surpassing Jacques Villeneuve's third-place finish in 1995. It also topped Tagliani's fourth-place effort in Long Beach last season, which had been his best career performance.
"Today is a team result," said Tagliani. "I've always said that Team Player's is strong, and my guys did a fantastic job. I know there are going to be a lot more results like today in the future."
Team Player's gamble on pit-stop strategy was a factor in Tagliani's trip to the podium. When race leader Gil de Ferran nipped into the pits during a caution on lap 50, Tagliani, who was running second, did likewise. While the refueling dropped Tagliani to 14th place, he climbed back up the field as several of the drivers ahead of him later headed into the pits. The combination of 13 laps under yellow and effective fuel conservation kept Tagliani on the track and in contention the rest of the way.
"At the end, Michael (Andretti) was on better tires," explained Tagliani. "I had a very fast car, but when I was saving fuel during the yellows, I was unable to warm up the tires, so I was losing a bit on the re-starts. But I was determined to hold on to my position on the track because I wanted that podium badly."
Carpentier said he was pleased to see his teammate get to the podium, adding: "He needed this, just as I do, too. I'm going to win some races before this season is over, and Alex is also going to win some." Of the incident that put him out of the race, Carpentier said it was a case of trying to take advantage of a good passing opportunity. "I had made all of my previous passes on turn 1 and when we went green again after the caution, I saw another chance in turn 1. I guess I tried too hard. I went in a bit too deep. I thought I was going to clear it, but that didn't happen. It's disappointing because Team Player's had given me a great car, but you have to take chances and I gave it my best shot."
Round 11 in the CART series takes place on the 2-mile Michigan Speedway super-oval, July 22.