CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver Mercedes Race Notes

When the sun broke through the rainclouds over Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, it seemed to shine especially brightly on Canadian Patrick Carpentier, who matched a CART career-best performance in taking second place...

When the sun broke through the rainclouds over Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, it seemed to shine especially brightly on Canadian Patrick Carpentier, who matched a CART career-best performance in taking second place at the Molson Indy Vancouver on Sunday. Carpentier's solid race driving in the No. 33 Player's/Forsythe Mercedes held off Jimmy Vasser at the finish as rookie Juan Montoya captured his seventh win of the CART season and extended his lead in the driver?s championship standings.

In an eventful race that began in heavy rain but ended with bright sunshine, the choice of a wet or dry initial setup -- and when to switch to slick tires -- proved to be decisive. The single-file start on the 1.781-mile temporary street circuit was declared a "wet start," with all competitors starting on rain tires. Carpentier started in 11th position and moved up steadily to fifth position at the halfway point.

On the restart on lap 60 of the 74-lap race following Greg Moore's contact with the wall, teammates Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy spun, allowing Carpentier to move into second place -- a position that he never relinquished. Despite fading tires, Carpentier finished 7.585 seconds behind Montoya and was the first Canadian to cross the finish line, earning the cheers of more than 60,000 soaked but enthusiastic spectators. The performance matched Carpentier's best result to date, a second at St. Louis in 1997.

Mercedes-Benz Powers PacWest and Hogan Teams to Top-10 Finishes

After gearbox trouble in the morning warmup, Mercedes driver Mauricio Gugelmin started his back-up car from 10th position on the grid and finished in fourth -- 15.549 seconds behind the winner -- thanks to a solid run on rain tires and the quick work of his PacWest Hollywood pit crew. It was "Big Mo's" best Champ Car finish since his fourth-place performance at Mid-Ohio in 1998. Meanwhile, second-year CART driver Helio Castro-Neves improved impressively from his 26th -place starting position to run sixth before losing two places on the final lap as his tires gave out. It was the young Brazilian's fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Castro-Neves teammate Luiz Garcia Jr. started 27th, and made contact with Michel Jourdain Jr. on lap 22, but was able to continue. Garcia Jr. eventually finished 16th.

PacWest Motorola Mercedes driver Mark Blundell raced competitively early, moving up from his fifth-place starting position to run as high as third before handling problems dropped him back in the pack. Later, after pitting one lap earlier than the leaders, Blundell got caught behind the pace car under yellow and was forced back to 13th. The PacWest team gambled on slick tires on his second pit stop, but Blundell spun out and made contact with the outside wall on lap 59, ending his eventful day. The Brit was awarded 19th place.

Hometown favorite Greg Moore started ninth, and moved up to sixth in the early going. But again the slick pavement took its toll. Attempting to pass Roberto Moreno, Moore slid up against a tire barrier and stalled the engine. He was able to get restarted and back on course, but raced one lap down. Taking a gamble similar to Moore?s by switching to slick tires, Moore slid into the wall on lap 52, ending his day. Moore was credited with 20th place.

Al Unser Jr., who had finished fifth or better in all nine previous Vancouver events, made contact with the wall on Turn Four, breaking the left rear suspension. Unser Jr. finished 25th.

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Second "There is no better place for this. I didn't know if it could come, but the sun is shining and I am so happy. The car was good today. It had some looseness this morning, but the engineers fixed that, and if anything, it had a little push during the race. But this was good because it allowed me to put the power down. At the end, I was just hoping the tires would last to keep Jimmy (Vasser) back there."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Fourth "It was a pretty difficult day, but it feels so good to have a finish after eight DNFs. We had all kinds of dramas this weekend, and we even had gearbox problems after morning warm-up, which meant I had to start the race in my other car. We just swapped the seat and the brakes, and we were ready to go. "We elected to leave the car with a dry set up, and we were chasing the car all day as the tires changed. I saved tires on my first stint, and the choice to stay on wets was the right one. In the end, I'm happy for the crew, who did a great job."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 09, Hogan Racing Lola/Mercedes/Firestone - Eighth "To move from 26th to eighth makes us very happy. On the final lap when the sun came out, the tires started going away, and the guys on slicks were able to pass me, which was disappointing. But it was very important for us to finish the race today, and I am glad that we did."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 19th "I got by PJ Jones at the start, and even though the car was very loose, I was able to hang onto third for quite awhile. The car was dancing around a bit at the rear. We made some tire pressure adjustments at the first pit stop, but something still didn't feel right. We decided to gamble and put on slicks at our second stop, but the track was too greasy and I just couldn't hold onto the car. It's too bad because my guys were great all weekend, and we've been right in the thick of things since I came back at Detroit. We'll head to Laguna Seca and look for a little change in our luck."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 20th "I was racing with Roberto Moreno and moved to the inside, but he moved over so I went back to the outside. I just locked up the tires in the wet and slid into the tire barriers, stalling the engine. That put me down a lap. "The change to slicks was a gamble, and perhaps it was a bit too early for it. We weren't able to keep our nose clean today."

Al Unser Jr., No. 02, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 25th "I tried to pass Richie Hearn on the outside, but he gassed it, and I couldn't get by. I moved over to try to pass him on the inside, when someone hit me from behind, causing me to spin and hit the wall. It's a sad day. We were just getting going. It's a shame because the Goodyear tires were great for the wet conditions."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Richie Hearn , Greg Moore , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr.