Blundell Powers Through Field at Road America Motorola Pilot Seventh and Sole Survivor as Bad Luck Strikes Mercedes Teams Despite a problem on the parade lap which left him starting from last place on the grid, Mark Blundell recovered to...
Blundell Powers Through Field at Road America Motorola Pilot Seventh and Sole Survivor as Bad Luck Strikes Mercedes Teams
Despite a problem on the parade lap which left him starting from last place on the grid, Mark Blundell recovered to finish seventh in the Texaco/Havoline 200, round 14 of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series. Unfortunately, Blundell's Motorola Reynard/Mercedes was the sole finisher sporting the three-pointed star as misfortune struck all five Mercedes-powered teams.
Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes pilot Greg Moore was an early favorite, leading until gearbox trouble during his first pit stop forced him to retire. Dario Franchitti won, scoring his first Champ Car victory and the first for a Scotsman since Jim Clark in 1965.
Marlboro Team Penske's Andre Ribeiro, driving with a broken left fibula suffered earlier in the weekend, experienced the only engine-related failure of the seven Mercedes-powered drivers who left the race early. Ribeiro's teammate Al Unser Jr. and Player's/Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier were both collected in a multi-car, first-lap incident.
Rookies JJ Lehto and Helio Castro-Neves were each felled by faulty exhaust headers, and brake problems finished off Mauricio Gugelmin. Mercedes Quotes
Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Seventh "On the parade lap, smoke started wafting up out of the cockpit and getting into my eyes. We have yet to get to the bottom of that. So I came in, and we changed the steering wheel and started from the back of the pack. After that, we basically just chopped our way through the field. We had a strong race, the guys gave us good stops and, except for a couple of little problems, produced a solid top-seven finish for the team."
JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 18th "I just started to lose power. Then something big happened at the back. I don't know if it was an electrical fire or what."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 19th "I wound up with no brakes. Every corner the pedal would go down to the bulkhead. Twice coming into Canada Corner I ran wide pumping up the brakes, then it started to happen in every corner. We stopped to bleed them, but it didn't help. I would've been in the fence somewhere if we stayed out there."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 21st "Our plan was for two stops. We knew we'd run out on that first tank, but everything was going according to plan. I came in, and we had a good stop. Then I tried to leave the pits, and the race was done. I selected first gear and something in the driveline broke. I'm not worried about the championship. I just want to win some more races. It's real disappointing."
Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 25th "Unfortunately, on lap eight I suddenly developed a misfire, and my Marlboro Penske/Mercedes just stalled on the entry to the carousel. They still don't know why this happened, but I'm confident they will find the cause and work to find a solution. I'm going to take the next couple of weeks off to rest my leg, and we should be set to go in Vancouver."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 26th "We had an exhaust problem. The header pipe broke. We were 13th fastest in this morning's practice. On the first lap, I smelled a little smoke. On the second lap, the cockpit filled with smoke. By the third lap I was losing power. Then it was over. It's a shame; a lot of the guys who were behind me finished in the top 10."
Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 27th "I don't know what happened. I got drilled from behind really, really hard. Someone used me for brakes. Whoever hit me didn't care. They weren't paying attention. People in front of me were using their heads, but whoever was behind me just wasn't thinking. It's a shame. We had a really good car. It just isn't right."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 28th "I couldn't see Unser. Somebody spun him, and there was a big cloud of dust. It's really too bad. We had a great car this morning and thought we had a good chance for the race--same for Unser. We're all aggressive and competitive, and everybody's trying for a position."