CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Mercedes-Benz; Mark Blundell perseveres

Mark Blundell survived a war of attrition to finish seventh for Mercedes-Benz at the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Adrian Fernandez earned an anticlimactic victory in a race that ended under...

Mark Blundell survived a war of attrition to finish seventh for Mercedes-Benz at the Rio 200 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Adrian Fernandez earned an anticlimactic victory in a race that ended under caution.

Blundell, who ran as high as fourth in his PacWest/Motorola/Mercedes, had to drive through a cloud of tire smoke on lap 99 of 108 when race leader Alexandre Tagliani spun in front of the cars of Kenny Brack, Dario Franchitti and Michael Andretti, who all spun as a result.

"I couldn't see a thing," said Blundell, who worked his way up from his 23rd starting position, earning him the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for his efforts. "I had to come almost stationary because I didn't know where the other cars were. I was a bit nervous."

The field was ready for the green flag again on lap 105 to sprint the three laps to the finish, but Tagliani, who had rejoined the race with minimal damage to his race car, spun again at the back of the pack to force the race to finish under yellow.

Blundell was able to advance through the field despite enduring a severe vibration in the steering wheel during the last 40 laps of the race. "It was so bad it put my left hand to sleep," he said. "I had to keep taking it off the wheel and massaging it."

Luiz Garcia Jr. drove his Arciero Project Racing/Hollywood/Mercedes from the back of the field to finish 12th. Michel Jourdain Jr., who started 22nd in his Bettenhausen Motorsports/Herdez/Mercedes, finished 15th after he had climbed into the top 10 in a valiant effort to challenge the lead pack of cars. A loss of oil pressure forced him to park his car on lap 91.

    "I'm very happy.  I feel very impressed with the car," said Jourdain.  
"The engine was very good and the car was very good.  We made a big change for
the race and the car was much better.  The car was getting loose, so we had to
put in more and more front wing to make it better.  I don't know what happened
at the end.  Something broke because my seat was full of water."
    Tony Kanaan finished 18th in his Mo Nunn Racing/Hollywood/Mercedes after
starting in ninth position.  A broken gearbox ended his race on lap 69.

"I was trying to engage third for a long time," said Kanaan. "I was trying to use fourth gear too. I lost third, then I lost fourth. You can't drive without third or fourth gear here. Up to then the car was reasonable. I had a bit too much downforce in the car for the straights. Unfortunately, we gave points away today."

Mauricio Gugelmin finished in the same position he started, 21st, when he suffered a mechanical problem with his PacWest/Nextel/Mercedes on lap 53.

"I'm wondering what went wrong," said Gugelmin. "It was a loss of power. I don't know what it is yet, so we'll have to see what happened."

{TB} Race Results, Rio 200 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 30, 2000

Pos.    Driver                  Engine              Laps
1       Adrian Fernandez        Ford                108
2       Jimmy Vasser            Toyota              108
3       Paul Tracy              Honda               108
4       Cristiano da Matta      Toyota              108
5       Christian Fittipaldi    Ford                108
6       Roberto Moreno          Ford                108
7       Mark Blundell           Mercedes-Benz       108
8       Memo Gidley             Ford                108
9       Michael Andretti        Ford                107
10      Kenny Brack             Ford                107
12      Luiz Garcia Jr.         Mercedes-Benz       104
15      Michel Jourdain Jr.     Mercedes-Benz       90
18      Tony Kanaan             Mercedes-Benz       69
21      Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz       53

Driver's Championship Manufacturer's Championship

Paul Tracy          48              Ford                    54                  
Jimmy Vasser        42              Honda                   52
Roberto Moreno      28              Toyota                  42
Max Papis           20              Mercedes-Benz           14
Adrian Fernandez    20   

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn