Giaffone finishes third, Takagi eighth at Indy Japan 300. MOTEGI, Japan (Sunday, April 13, 2003) -- Felipe Giaffone and the ...
Giaffone finishes third, Takagi eighth at Indy Japan 300.
MOTEGI, Japan (Sunday, April 13, 2003) -- Felipe Giaffone and the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force finished third for the second race in a row while Mo Nunn Racing teammate Tora Takagi and the #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing team car came home in eighth place at today's Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Giaffone started ninth on a starting grid decided by combined practice times from Friday and Saturday after rain washed out single-car qualifying on Saturday afternoon. He methodically picked off position after position in the early stages of the race, working his way up to fifth by his first fuel-and-tire stop under yellow on Lap 39 of today's 200-lap event around the 1.5-mile egg-shaped oval here. He was fifth when the leaders began pitting a second time around the 100-lap mark. Giaffone's second stop came on Lap 107 under yellow. The final round of stops for the leaders began around the 163-lap mark, and Giaffone, still standing firmly in the top-five, came in on Lap 167. It was about then his car began to develop gearbox problems, but he continued to run consistent laps to the end and was able to pick up a final two positions for third when, with just eight laps to go, polesitter Scott Dixon and fellow front-row starter Tony Kanaan crashed heavily into the Turn Four wall while fighting for the lead. Kanaan suffered possible broken bones in his right leg and left wrist and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Dixon only complained of soreness and was released from the track medical center.
The third-place finish was Giaffone's sixth in 18 IRL IndyCar Series race starts for Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing the past two seasons. It moved him up to third in the driver points standings after the first three events of 2003. Today's race-winner Scott Sharp is first with 106 points, followed by Kanaan with 102. Giaffone has 92 points, three points ahead of Kenny Brack, who was the runner-up finisher today.
Takagi, meanwhile, started a season-high third today and got by polesitter Dixon along with Kanaan on the opening lap. He stayed in second until Brack got by him just before the yellow flag came out on Lap 18 for track debris. Takagi pitted for the first time under yellow on Lap 37, a fateful stop during which the fuel vent hose stuck in his car, and he left the pits with a metal probe stuck in the vent hole. That brought out a black-flag penalty, and Takagi served a drive-through penalty on Lap 59, after the race went back to green, setting him a lap down to the leaders in 18th place. It was a deficit that was not to be overcome, particularly with sporadic oversteer problems that set in as the race progressed. Takagi did pick up 10 positions before the end of the race, vaulting him into 14th in the driver points standings.
The next race on the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series tour is the 87th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Today's race will be aired on ABC-TV's tape-delayed telecast beginning at 1 p.m. EDT today.
"We have to leave here happy with third place, because I'm not sure we had a third-place car by the end of the day today. But that just goes to show that if you keep pushing hard to be there at the end, good things happen to you even when you don't have a perfect day. This was a good result for the team. It was our second third-place finish in a row and it moved us up to third in the points, so we are in a very good position going into the month of May. The guys gave me really good pit stops, and we were lucky to overcome the problems that we had at the end. I developed gearbox problems during the last 50 laps or so. I lost fifth gear, so I could use only sixth, and that was not a good thing for me during the restarts because the gear was just a little bit too long. Oh well, there are a lot of other people who probably wish they were in my position after this race, so I'm not going to hang my head. Let's go to Indy!"
"That was a tougher day than I was expecting, but I am happy to finish with an eight-place result. My car seemed to be very strong at the start, and then we had the (stuck fuel vent hose) problem on our first stop that really set us back. We got a penalty because of that, and it was going to be very difficult after that. But we continued to fight hard and see how many positions we could pick up by the end of the race, and I think eighth place is very good, all things considered. I feel really bad for all the people who came out to see me today. But hopefully I can give them a bigger and better result at the Indy 500 next month. I'm really looking forward to it."