Motegi, Japan -- Tomas Enge faced an uphill battle this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi: Unfamiliar car, little time to prepare, immense travel and bad weather. His effort ended prematurely Saturday when two mechanical failures led to a spin and crash...
Motegi, Japan -- Tomas Enge faced an uphill battle this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi: Unfamiliar car, little time to prepare, immense travel and bad weather. His effort ended prematurely Saturday when two mechanical failures led to a spin and crash in the early laps of the Japan Indy 300.
Enge was braking to enter the pits to repair a water leak when the front wishbones collapsed on the No. 51 Cheever Racing IT Honda/Dallara on the 25th lap of the 200-lap race. The car spun and crashed, leaving Enge with a 19th-place finish in his role as a fill-in for team owner Eddie Cheever Jr.
"Suddenly I got a call from my team to come into the pits immediately, so I started to brake for the pit lane entrance on the backstretch," Enge said. "Something broke on the front suspension. From that point, I was just a passenger."
Crew members noticed a drop in water pressure from telemetry readings in the pits. Enge was told to pit for repairs. When he dropped to the apron and prepared to enter the pit lane, the top front wishbones inexplicably collapsed under braking.
In spite of the mechanical issues, Cheever Racing officials were pleased with Enge's effort.
"Tomas quickly got the car up to speed despite the lack of practice caused by the severe weather," Cheever Racing team manager Buddy Lindblom said. "I am very pleased how the team worked together as Tomas substitutes for Eddie this weekend."
The crash ended a whirlwind week for Enge, who was hired to replace Cheever for the Motegi race while Cheever competes this weekend in a Grand Am Rolex Series sports-car event at Virginia International Raceway. Cheever will return to the No. 51 car as preparations begin next week for the 90th Indianapolis 500.
Enge won an A1GP race in China two weeks ago, then traveled to his home in the Czech Republic, then traveled to Indianapolis for last-minute preparations for the Motegi race, and then traveled to Japan. "I've done a lap around the world," Enge joked.
Upon arrival in Japan, Enge and the Cheever Racing crew encountered bad weather that limited practice time and washed out qualifying. Since the starting grid was aligned according to entrant points, Enge started 13th.
"We worked really hard because we only had limited sessions yesterday to get familiar with the track and car," Enge said. "The cold temperatures and strong winds did make it difficult to make proper adjustments."