CATALONIA'S ORIOL SERVIA TAKES COMMANDING INDY LIGHTS LEAD FOLLOWING RUNNER-UP FINISH AT DETROIT DETROIT, Mich. (Aug. 9, 1999) - Catalonian Oriol Servia showed once again how poise, tact, and intelligence can blend into a ...
CATALONIA'S ORIOL SERVIA TAKES COMMANDING INDY LIGHTS LEAD FOLLOWING RUNNER-UP FINISH AT DETROIT
DETROIT, Mich. (Aug. 9, 1999) - Catalonian Oriol Servia showed once again how poise, tact, and intelligence can blend into a championship mixture as he scurried to his fifth second place finish of the year in round nine of the 12-race 1999 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship at the Detroit News Challenge, Sunday, Aug. 8.
Servia, who hails from Pals, Catalonia, Spain, is on a possible collision course with the Indy Lights crown after improving his season points total to 112 - a 20-point cushion over his closest challengers, teammates Philipp Peter, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif. Peter and Mears are tied for second place with 92 points after finishing eighth and ninth place, respectively.
Race winner Derek Higgins, of Ireland, took the checkered flag 0.802-seconds ahead of Servia in the 32-lap/75.072 mile Indy Lights sprint around Belle Isle's 2.346-mile, 14-turn temporary road course.
Servia started from the pole after setting a track record 1:22.353 = 102.554 mph on the final lap of qualifying. This eclipsed the previous record of 1:22.525 = 102.340 mph set in 1998 by Airton Dare. It was Servia's third pole of the season. He also started from the pole at Nazareth and Portland.
The series leader grabbed a solid lead on the race start but was forced to "rev" down halfway through lap one when the first of four cautions were issued. A full course yellow flag was displayed after Chris Menninga suffered left rear damage from contact with another car.
Meanwhile, Mears pulled what has practically become an opening lap personal trademark when he leaped from 13th on the starting grid to ninth place before either the field or yellow flag could make a difference. Mears has consistently passed from three to five cars on the opening lap in many Indy Lights races this year.
"We changed our entire set-up right before the race," said Mears. "We're still struggling with the car. I passed a bunch at the start and hung in there to keep my spot. It was a clean race. We ended up in the points, and scoring points was ultimately what we knew we had to do. Now it's time to focus on our next race in Chicago in two weeks."
On the lap four re-start, Servia perfectly timed the green flag and careened to a 1.21-second lead over outside pole sitter Jonny Kane, of Ireland. Servia incrementally increased his margin with each subsequent lap to where he was 1.377-seconds ahead of Kane by lap six. Peter, who started eighth, held onto to eighth while Mears settled in behind.
"My concern before the race was what tactic to use to overtake cars in front of me," said Peter. "By the end of the race, I was too slow to even keep the pace with the cars in front of me. I had a lot of push and I don't know where it came. We had a little push in Saturday's practice but I thought we solved the problem."
Servia's bid to build a bigger lead was thwarted again on lap nine when contact between Ben Collins and debuting driver Boris Derichebourg navigated Collins into the nearest tire barrier. A full course caution was issued which proved most beneficial to Higgins, who had quietly crept from seventh on the starting grid to third place behind Kane.
The race resumed on lap 12 with Servia holding his lead. Kane and Higgins were in hot pursuit. Scott Dixon, who started 15th, mounted a charge and passed Mears for ninth place on lap 13.
Two key passes, however, directly determined the race's outcome. The first came on lap 13 when Higgins swept past Kane for second place. Higgins then played "cat and mouse" with Servia before making a "make or break" outside pass for the lead on lap 16 in turn three. Servia conceded the move but not the race.
"I had a good car under braking but everybody made me go around the outside in turn three," said Higgins. "The first time it happened, I thought to myself, 'okay, it worked.' Then I was forced to the same maneuver more and it continued to work." Higgins's lead was jeopardized on lap 17 when Mario Dominguez stopped on course. A yellow flag was issued, which presented Servia a passing opportunity on the re-start. Higgins, however, staved off Servia's inside power play on the green flag two laps later to precariously remain in the lead.
Contact between Derichebourg and Dare on lap 23 sent Dare into a tire barrier, bringing out the fourth yellow flag of the day. The race resumed on lap 26 offering Servia another chance at Higgins, but the Irishman won the proverbial draw essentially deciding the final outcome.
"To finish second place again is frustrating," said Servia. "I definitely want to win a race but winning the championship is the primary consideration. Today, honestly, I think Derrick was just playing with the field. He was absolutely amazing in turn three. When he passed me, I saw him in my mirror. I delayed my braking as long as I could and he still slipped by me. At the time I felt like an idiot. Then I found out he had done the same thing to five other drivers. It didn't feel so bad then."
Servia remains the series "hottest" contender. He has driven his Dorricott Racing-prepared Catalonia/RACC/Elf Lola to five second place finishes in the last seven events. The only aberrations were fifth place showings at Milwaukee in round four and on Michigan Speedway's high speed, high banked oval in round eight. Otherwise, the second-year Indy Lights pilot claimed second place at Nazareth in round three, and a hattrick of deuces in rounds five, six and seven at Portland, Cleveland, and Toronto.
In all, Servia has seven career Indy Lights second place finishes in 23 career Indy Lights races. He was also runner-up at Trois-Rivieres and Laguna Seca last year. Servia assumed the Indy Lights lead this season at Cleveland.
ESPN2 will present an encore telecast of the Detroit News Challenge on Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 2:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. ET (Monday, Aug. 9, 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. PT).
Dorricott Racing is a year-round professional motorsports organization based at Sears Point International Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Race results, team and sponsor information may be viewed on Dorricott Racing's web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com.
Dorricott Racing's next stop is round 10 - the Mi Jack 100 of Chicago - in the inaugural race event at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill, Sunday, Aug. 22.