CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver Mercedes Post Race Report

Roger Penske’s strategy, Al Unser Jr.’s driving and the fuel economy of the Mercedes-Benz IC108E engine allowed Unser to lead 9 laps of the Molson Indy Vancouver after starting the race 22nd. Ultimately, however, the Marlboro drive...

Roger Penske’s strategy, Al Unser Jr.’s driving and the fuel economy of the Mercedes-Benz IC108E engine allowed Unser to lead 9 laps of the Molson Indy Vancouver after starting the race 22nd. Ultimately, however, the Marlboro drive had to settle for fifth when late-race cautions foiled his plans. Unser’s was the first of four Mercedes-powered cars to finish in the top 10.

Finishing just ahead of Unser, Alex Zanardi clinched his second consecutive PPG Cup, claiming the $1 million prize that comes with the FedEx Championship Series title. Dario Franchitti enjoyed a big payday of his own, scoring his second consecutive race victory and collecting $330,000 in Marlboro Pole Award bonus money for winning from the pole.

Rookie Helio Castro-Neves also had a turn at the front. He inherited the lead during pit stops and quickly pulled away from the competition, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Unfortunately, his reign ended at 20 laps as he ran out of fuel on his way to the pit lane. The young Brazilian had been forced to pit during the parade laps before the race when his Team Alumax car inexplicably lost power. As a precaution, the team changed the engine control module, which resulted in a fuel meter discrepancy. Telemetry indicated two gallons of fuel remained when he rolled to a stop on lap 41.

Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes driver Mauricio Gugelmin finished just behind Unser after struggling with brake problems for most of the race, which was shortened to 86 laps from a scheduled 90 due to a two-hour time limit.

Mercedes drivers Andre Ribeiro and rookie JJ Lehto both posted their best results of the season. Ribeiro brought the second Marlboro Penske/Mercedes home seventh, while Lehto finished eighth in the Hogan Racing entry.

PacWest Racing driver Mark Blundell finished 12th in the Motorola Reynard/Mercedes. Blundell ran as high as third but spun in the midst of a multi-car incident which took out Player’s/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes pilot Greg Moore on lap 54.

Player’s/Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier tangled with Jimmy Vasser on lap 10, ending his day in the tire barriers.

Mercedes Quotes

Al Unser Jr., No. 2 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Fifth "Our strategy was right on. Roger Penske’s the Captain. He puts me right up front in no time flat. He passed more cars than anybody today. I had a little bit of trouble on the re-starts because of buildup on my tires, but other than that, the Marlboro Penske/Mercedes ran really well. Hopefully, our luck’s turning around."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Sixth "We got the car working pretty good in the warm-up session. But in the race, after five laps, the brake rotors warped. The vibration was unbelievable. My foot would be knocked right off the pedal in the braking zone. My entry speed into the corners was so slow, and that induced even more understeer. It was a tough race, but I used my head and stayed out of trouble. I’m just glad to get some points."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: Seventh "Considering all the problems we had, with my broken leg and everything else, this is a pretty good result. The car stayed consistent all race. When we were racing, the leg didn’t bother me. You’re just so busy in the car that you don’t have time to think about it. But on the yellows it was hurting bad."

JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Eighth "This is my best finish of the year, and it was an okay run. We ran with the pack all day. We had understeer problems all week, and it was the same in the race. The last set of tires particularly, with all of the yellows, we couldn’t get them up to temperature. I wasn’t quicker than anyone else, and I wasn’t slower than anyone else. I was just there doing my job and hanging on."

Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 12th "We had a couple of breaks at the start of the race, which allowed us to move up and run third. Then on that re-start, we had to get around P.J. Jones and had to go outside and up into the marbles to do it. Just got into the marbles and touched the brakes and spun. After that, the guys gave me a couple of great stops, but it was just really tough getting by people. On a track like this, it’s nearly impossible to overtake."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player’s/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 20th "I just came up to the corner and saw some cars sideways and a bunch of smoke. I got onto the brakes, then, next thing I know, I’m going over the top of P.J. The worst part was I got hit in the head with my own tire when I hit the wall. My eyes were closed, and at first, I though I might be upside down. It was just a racing incident, but I’m really disappointed. It’s nice, though, no matter how we do, the fans here in Vancouver are always supportive."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 24th "Unfortunately, at the start we had a problem, and we came in and changed the ECU, the electrical box. That was why we had to stop. And that mixed up our fuel calculations, and we just needed another half a lap. At least we showed we can run in the lead."

Molson Indy Vancouver Race Report Concord Pacific Place Sept. 6, 1998

Pos.    Driver          Chassis/Engine/Tires    Laps
1       Dario Franchitti        Reynard/Honda/Firestone 86
2       Michael Andretti        Swift/Ford/Goodyear             86
3       Scott Pruett    Reynard/Ford/Firestone  86
4       Alex Zanardi    Reynard/Honda/Firestone 86
5       Al Unser Jr.    Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear        86
6       Mauricio Gugelmin       Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone      86
7       Andre Ribeiro   Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear        86
8       JJ Lehto                Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone      86
9       Max Papis       Reynard/Toyota/Firestone        86
7       Michel Jourdain Jr.     Reynard/Ford/Firestone  86
12      Mark Blundell   Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone      86
20      Greg Moore      Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone      54
24      Helio Castro-Neves      Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear       41
27      Patrick Carpentier      Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone      10

Driver’s Points: Alex Zanardi 218 Manufacturer’s Points: Honda 285 Jimmy Vasser 126 Ford 236 Adrian Fernandez 120 Mercedes 184 Greg Moore 118 Toyota 26

Contact Scott McKee, Mercedes-Benz Sports Information Bureau, in Vancouver at 604-646-0339 (track) or 604-683-1234 (hotel).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , P.J. Jones , Roger Penske , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Michel Jourdain , JJ Lehto , Scott McKee