CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America report #2

Well, an eventful race today at Elkhart Lake. Here is a summary (lengthy) of what went on at the track. Zanardi and de Ferran battled hard off the start, with de Ferran seeming to have grabbed the lead. Zanardi pinched across on de Ferran and...

Well, an eventful race today at Elkhart Lake. Here is a summary (lengthy) of what went on at the track.

Zanardi and de Ferran battled hard off the start, with de Ferran seeming to have grabbed the lead. Zanardi pinched across on de Ferran and knocked him out of the race in the turn two. At the same corner, Jan Magnussen also went off in the Hogan/Penske effort, where he was replacing Emmo.

Zanardi dropped back during the remainder of the first lap, giving Christian Fittipaldi an early lead. Fittipaldi had managed to get past Andretti after he got sideways in Turn 1.

Gugelmin made contact with Paul Tracy during the lap as well, and apparently Brian Herta got a tap courtesy of Jimmy Vasser (or Paul Tracy). Paul Tracy had to head to the pits to replace his wing.

After two laps, the order was now:

Fittipaldi, Andretti, Gugelmin, Vasser, Herta, Rahal, Unser, Moore, Fernandez, Gordon, Zanardi, Ribiero

The restart was clean but competitive, with the Newman/Hass teammates battling hard for the lead.

Papis and Fangio drove each other off the track. Gordon got wide and hit the dirt to drop back a few spots. Gugelmin made an early pass on Andretti to move up to second.

Hiro hit the pits early to avoid any trouble...while Zanardi started to move back up through the field, putting a clean pass on Moore to move up to 8th.

With seven laps in the books, the order was

Fittipaldi, Gugelmin, Andretti, Herta, Rahal, Vasser, Unser, Zanardi, Moore, Ribiero, Blundell, Gordon

Paul Tracy lost it under braking into Turn two, bringing out the second full course yellow. He got restarted and rejoined at the back of the pack.

Gugelmin had been the fastest driver so far, pulling out a 106.888 second lap, about a half second faster than his nearest competitor.

On the restart (lap 10), Fittipaldi got a good jump, but he seemed to pass the pace car before it got off the track. Andretti had a bad restart allowing Herta to get by him for third.

Andretti had been getting sideways in many of the turns around the course, but seemingly didn't have the acceleration of the other cars. Rahal was now worrying him from behind, allowing Herta to get some breathing room.

Rahal finally got by Andretti, and their battle allowed the stream of Vasser, Unser, Ribiero and Moore to close up.

Moore had a massive off near Canada Corner, possibly getting tapped by Ribiero to send him off hard into the wall, screaming down into the run off area with his front tires both in the air. Moore waited at Canada corner for Ribiero to reappear, and I assume they won't be going out for dinner after the race.

Davy Jones flipped his car upside down somehow going under the Texaco bridge. This looked bad, but apparently Jones was talking to the corner workers. The full course yellow for these incidents brought everyone into the pits.

The safety team managed to get the car flipped back over, and spent a lot of time getting Jones out of the car.

On the restart, Zanardi was back at the pole, taking a quick lead. Unser followed, with Andretti and Fittipaldi battling in behind, Fittipaldi eventually getting the jump on Andretti with a great side by side battle.

On lap 18, the order was:

Zanardi, Unser, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Gordon, Ribiero, Papis, Blundell, Pruett, Gugelmin, Fernandez, Johansson

Zanardi hadn't pitted since lap 8, and Papis hadn't pitted since lap 5.

Davy Jones was apparently okay, his off being caused by all the debris from the Moore incident, followed by a Tracy sand excursion in the next corner.

Blundell tried to outbrake Ribiero into Canada Corner, with Ribiero tapping him slightly, Gugelmin saw his opportunity, but Ribiero came across on him, knocking him out. He flew into Blundell's car, ending up with Blundell and Gugelmin (teammates) up against the Armco. Ribiero struggled back to the pits but decided to call it a day rather than killing anyone in Canada Corner.

Ribiero in his post race interview, claimed he couldn't see Gugelmin (understandable) and that Moore had caused his own misfortune (these two have a now lengthy history of animosity).

Under yellow on Lap 21, the order is now:

Zanardi, Unser, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Gordon, Fernandez, Johansson, Rahal, Papis, Pruett, Johnstone, Boesel

Series leader Jimmy Vasser was now just one position out of the points. Only 17 drivers remained on the lead lap.

Zanardi dove into the pits, and may have pitted when the pits were closed. Zanardi will get a stop and go for this, dropping him way back to the back of the pack. Papis also used this opportunity to pit, dropping him back out of the points.

Blundell gave a great post race interview, claiming that Ribiero "has to learn how to race" and that he was right behind Ribiero when he "took Moore out".

Gugelmin gave another classic interview "there are a lot of people out there who aren't really paying attention to what they are doing".

At the restart, the order:

Unser, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Gordon, Fernandez, Johansson, Rahal, Pruett, Johnstone, Boesel, Vasser, Herta

Johnstone made a nice move to get by Pruett under braking, and the rest of the restart was very clean.

Rahal out dragged Fernandez up the hill, with Rahal completing the pass into the first turn (in a nice new Miller paintjob).

Tracy got a stop and go for passing Papis before the start/finish line on the restart.

Rahal, back in fifth, was turning the quickest laps of the field, closing the gap to Gordon. Andretti was also quite quick, moving right up on the tail of his teammate Fittipaldi.

PJ Jones had his Toyota expire on the exit of the carousel. He parked it on the track(!) with everyone streaming past at high speed. Apparently a transmission failure.

Fernandez was holding up his pursuers, with both Johansson and Johnstone hot on his heels.

The order after 28 was:

Unser, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Gordon, Rahal, Fernandez, Johansson, Johnstone, Pruett, Boesel, Vasser, Herta, Zanardi

Rahal got by Gordon, and made quick work trying to catch up to the Unser/Fittipaldi/Andretti battle.

Moore gave a great post race interview "the guy is driving like an idiot", and when asked if the track was slippery, he said "it was slippery where I was, out on the grass".

The packs on the track were now:

Unser/Fittipaldi/Andretti Rahal Gordon Fernandez/Johansson/Johnstone Pruett/Vasser/Herta/Zanardi Boesel Fangio Papis Tracy -1 Hiro -3 Jones -4

Everyone was now setting their fastest laps of the day so far, with Tracy screaming around in 103 seconds, a full second faster than anyone else.

Everyone into the pits on lap 34. Fittipaldi and Andretti got out of the pits together, but Pruett almost tagged Andretti as he entered the pits. Andretti got sideways and almost took out the whole pit lane. Vasser also was involved, nearly getting tagged by both Andretti and Fittipaldi.

Michael apparently said some unreportables as he soiled his driving suit.

Gordon's alternator had failed, and he dropped back from fourth to 14th while they changed the battery.

Fernandez hit the beach at the end of Canada Corner, with the safety crew bringing out a forklift to pluck him out without bringing out a full course yellow. This didn't pan out, and the track went yellow on lap 38.

Poor Zanardi had just pitted moments before the yellow came out, but on a four mile track you have much less room to gamble.

Gordon came back in under the yellow, with the covers coming off for some work on the electricals, putting him down a lap. He was quite upset, apparently screaming around the track with the car on the rev limiter (including leaving the pits in first with the pedal matted).

The order after all the stops was now:

Unser, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Zanardi, Rahal, Johansson, Herta, Johnstone, Pruett, Vasser, Fangio, Papis

The restart on lap 41 was clean, with Zanardi and Rahal battling hard up the hill, Zanardi keeping his spot.

Unser and Fittipaldi were taking advantage of this, by pulling out a nice lead.

Gordon spun, and while pulling another 180 to get back going forwards, he damn near hit a course worker (or spectator?). Nascar should suit him just fine...

With eight laps to go, the battles were now:

Unser/Fittipaldi/Andretti Zanardi/Rahal/Johansson/Herta/Johnstone/Vasser Pruett Fangio Boesel Papis Tracy -1 Gordon -1 Fernandez -2 Hiro -4

Gordon parked the car with seven laps to go. He had many complaints about the Ford engine. Gordon claimed that everyone else needed to calm down a bit (!!!) and use their heads(!!!). Beekhuis followed that up by saying "coming from Gordon..."

Rahal got past Zanardi, to move up to fourth, while Fittipaldi has his car expire to drop him out of second! Fittipaldi stormed away and actually ran across the track just before Canada Corner!

The order now becomes (lap 45):

Unser, Andretti, Rahal, Zanardi, Johansson, Herta, Vasser, Johnstone, Pruett, Fangio, Boesel, Papis

The only close battle now was Andretti and Rahal, who were both a second or two behind Unser.

On the last lap of the race, Johnstone had a massive off, flipping his car completely upside down after contact with Paul Tracy, who was a full lap down. Johnstone's car flipped end over end a few times after his car dug into the grass. Luckily, he was conscious and moving while being attended to by the safety team.

Meanwhile, Unser lost the engine on the turn before the checkered flag!!!! Andretti took the win, with Rahal just behind.

Final results (with season points):

  Andretti     107
  Rahal         80
  Zanardi      109
  Johansson     43
  Herta         62
  Vasser       136
  Pruett        68
  Fangio         5
  Papis          4
  Unser        115
  Johnstone     31
  Tracy         60

I have to say that I haven't seen a crazier Indycar race in quite some time. There were many comings together, a few of which could have been quite deadly. Two cars ended up upside down, Moore very nearly went airborne, and the leader had his engine expire within sight of the chequered flag! A pair of teammates came together in the Armco, with Ribiero being involved in the end of three different drivers races.

It also very nearly meant a tie in the drivers standings going into Vancouver, but the poor finish by Unser gives Vasser a comfortable lead with two races to go.

Fastest lap of the race goes to Paul Tracy on lap 33, with the slowest fastest lap going to Hiro, on lap 45, coincidentally the same lap that his transmission expired. Unser set his fastest lap on lap 49, perhaps a lap that was just a bit too taxing on his engine.

Vancouver ought to be a very interesting race, with Unser needing a great result to get him back in the battle. He tends to do well at this track, though, and Vasser hasn't had much luck on tighter street courses, so...

John jclarke@nortel.ca

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Jimmy Vasser , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Davy Jones , Brian Herta