CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Mercedes Race Report

Rio 400, Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Sunday, May 10, 1998 Race Report Moore and Mercedes are Zanardi's "Nightmare" in Rio Hakkinen F-1 Win and CART Triumph Make for Double Mercedes Weekend "I said at the...

Rio 400, Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sunday, May 10, 1998 Race Report

Moore and Mercedes are Zanardi's "Nightmare" in Rio Hakkinen F-1 Win and CART Triumph Make for Double Mercedes Weekend

"I said at the start of the season that (Greg Moore) would be the biggest nightmare of my nights," commented Alex Zanardi in the interview following the Rio 400. Only moments before, Moore passed Zanardi five laps from the end of the race to score his and Mercedes-Benz's first Champ Car victory of the season.

It was Mercedes' second win of the weekend as Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard scored the third one-two victory of the 1998 Formula One season for West-McLaren-Mercedes in Barcelona, Spain. With Mercedes at the head of the field for the entire race, Hakkinen extended his lead in the World Driving Championship.

Back in Rio, Moore also widened the spread in the championship points. The Player's/Forsythe pilot leads second-place finisher Zanardi by four. Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, closed the gap in the CART Manufacturer's battle, as the all-new IC108E V8 engine notched its maiden victory. A clean-sheet-of-paper design, the IC108E has powered one win, two pole positions, two seconds and a third in its first five FedEx Championship Series outings.

Moore credited the fuel economy and reliability of the new engine as he and Zanardi stretched their final fuel loads to the limit. But in the end it was a daring move to the outside of Zanardi through turn one that brought victory.

Joining Moore in the top 10 at Rio were the Mercedes-powered cars of Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes) and JJ Lehto (Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes). Gugelmin improved 12 positions to claim ninth spot, while rookie Lehto posted the best finish of his CART career, earning the first three points of the season for Hogan Racing and the new Magneti Marelli electronics system.

Mark Blundell ran solidly in the Motorola Reynard/Mercedes, improving eight positions to finish 11th, despite running out of fuel on the last lap. Marlboro Team Penske's Al Unser Jr. ran as high as second place, but his day was cut short by a mechanical failure. Unser's teammate Andre Ribeiro finished 22nd, leaving the race early with gearbox trouble.

Patrick Carpentier put in a good drive, running in the top six until a broken front wing on the second Player's/Forsythe car dropped him from contention. He finished 17th. Rookie Helio Castro-Neves had his birthday celebration spoiled by a failed throttle position sensor. Ironically, the Team Alumax rookie, who turned 23 today, finished 23rd.

Mercedes Quotes Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Winner "Obviously, I'm very pleased. I couldn't be leaving Rio any happier. To win the race this way, with a good fight with Alex (Zanardi), who's one of the best out there, and pass him the way I did at the end of the race, it's very gratifying. Fuel economy was good. I probably had about one gallon left when I crossed the line. The warning light came on a lap and a half from the end. The important thing is that this engine is super-reliable; we can run it super-lean or super-rich, and it just keeps going. At the end, my guys gave me a great stop and got me out right behind Alex. It's nice to leave Rio with the championship lead."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Ninth "Conserving fuel is frustrating. If there are guys ahead of you, you have to race. That stop-and-go penalty (for passing before the start-finish line) really hurt me."

JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 10th "I'm very happy. We had our ups and downs during the race, but after all the struggle during practice and qualifying, I'm really happy. I got the black flag (penalty), but we made the lap up at the end. It was a good run."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 11th "I'm a little frustrated. For some reason, we weren't in the ballpark with everybody else. The last part of the race, we had to really conserve a lot of fuel. The balance of the car was pretty good, but we just couldn't run with anyone. To salvage 11th was a pretty good result all in all."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 16th "After starting on the last row, the Marlboro car ran really well today. We were moving through the field, and the guys did a great job with the pit stops. It felt great to be in second place by lap 90. All of sudden, we developed a problem with the engine, which ended our day early. We know this car has a lot of potential, and we are continuing to develop it. We're looking forward to the race in St. Louis."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 17th "We're not sure what happened. Something broke as the car was going over the bumps and the wing caught the asphalt and broke. After that it started rubbing the tire. Before that, everything was going great today."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 22nd "On the first pit stop, I couldn't engage first gear, which concerned me. It happened again on the second stop, and then I also lost fourth gear, so I couldn't downshift properly in turn three. By lap 76, we finally lost all the gears due to a mechanical failure in the gearbox. This is a big disappointment after everyone worked so hard all weekend. But you must take these situations and learn from them."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16, Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear - 23rd "The problem was the throttle wasn't giving me full throttle, and that also caused a problem with shifting. The throttle didn't stick, it would've been even worse if it stuck; that can be dangerous on a track like this. The car was excellent before that. It was much better on old tires. I could have moved up as the day went on, but we'll just go to the next one."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske