Promising Top Five Finish for Conquest Racing's Enrique Bernoldi in St. Petersburg St. Petersburg, Fla. (April 6, 2008) - The race may have started under yellow but it quickly got exciting for the Conquest...
Promising Top Five Finish for Conquest Racing's Enrique Bernoldi in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg, Fla. (April 6, 2008) - The race may have started under yellow but it quickly got exciting for the Conquest Racing team who led their first laps of the season, ran in the top two with both drivers and came home with a fifth place finish with driver Enrique Bernoldi (#36 Sangari Dallara/Honda/Firestone) in their first street course race in the IndyCar Series at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The second race of the season finally went green on lap 11 with a single file start after rainy conditions obliged the IndyCar Series to start under yellow. Rookie Franck Perera (#34 Conquest Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone) lost a couple of positions at the start while teammate Enrique Bernoldi gained two. After both drivers settled into the rainy conditions, Bernoldi continued his way through the field while Perera quietly made his way up.
When the yellow came out on lap 32, Bernoldi came in for his first pit stop and changed his Firestone Firehawks to slicks on lap 34.The green flag waved again on lap 37 with Perera sitting in third. He quickly made his way around Dan Wheldon for second where he stayed until his first pit stop on lap 42.
By lap 43, Bernoldi was in fourth place with Perera 15th. As some passing and pit stops took place, Bernoldi made his way to first place, leading the first laps of his IndyCar Series career. Unfortunately for Perera, who was creeping his way closer to Tony Kanaan in eighth, a yellow flag came out on lap 57 when Ryan Briscoe hit the wall. Both Conquest drivers took advantage of the yellow conditions to pit with Bernoldi ending up seventh and Perera 12th after their second round of stops.
On lap 68, Bernoldi gained an extra position when he passed Dan Wheldon for sixth. In the meantime, Perera was fighting with Vitor Meira for a spot in the top ten but a failed attempt to pass took him out in turn 10 ending his race in 20th position. By the time the checkered flag flew on the race that was won by former Conquest Atlantic driver, Graham Rahal, Bernoldi had moved up another position to grab his first top-five finish of the season.
Franck Perera #34 Conquest Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"It's very disappointing because we were showing a very good pace. The beginning was difficult in the rain. I had never driven with the car in the rain before, and I don't have a lot of experience in these types of conditions so I was taking it slowly and getting better. We were finally P2 behind Briscoe. With the slicks we were running sixth or seventh behind Kanaan and I was faster than him and catching him. Then the yellow came out and after the pit stop I was stuck behind some drivers that were slower than me and Meira was blocking me when I was trying to get by and I don't like being stuck behind someone slower than me so I tried something… It's a shame I crashed. It's good for the team that Enrique finished top five and I am looking forward to the next race."
Enrique Bernoldi #36 Sangari Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"I've been racing in the wet and the dry and changing situations my whole life. So I was used to it. I knew if I could stay on the track I could have a good race and fight for a win. I think after last week at the oval where I was so bad, I think it's a big week for the whole team to be leading the race and to finish fifth. I've been out of open-wheel racing for more than two years. So it takes a while for me to get back. But I think this was good practice - two hours in these conditions, it's a big lift for us. The team did a great job."
Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing owner
"It was an exciting race and we must be happy that both cars ran at the front. Both drivers have been impressive and it was a very good team effort all together. It was good to lead the race for a while with Enrique and be in the top three with Franck for a good part of the race. It's a shame that Franck couldn't finish the race but he has definitely shown lots of potential all weekend long. All the hard work that we have put in these past few weeks has been well rewarded with Enrique's top-five finish."