Pit Stop Strategy Pays Off
By Jim DeFord
"I know it was a moment when he was going to try to overtake me," said de Ferran. "I came up on slower traffic and gave up some momentum. I gave him the outside line ... deep ... deep and to his credit he tried to take it. I just concentrated my best and tried not to make a mistake."
Zanardi pressured de Ferran for the last two laps of the race. Gil was running "full lean" on the fuel mixture to make it to the end of the race and the gamble paid off.
Jim Hall was asked how much fuel was left in the car, "I think I could have had it for a cocktail. It wasnít much."
Even though it was pretty much obvious that Zanardi was faster than de Ferran, he could not make the pass stick when Gil was slowed by Johannson.
"I tried, I think I could (pass de Ferran)," Zanardi commented. "I was obviously quicker than Gil at the end, but heís obviously very strong and very tough to beat. He left me an opening, and I tried to take it. (To de Ferran) Iím happy for you, but a little bit disappointed for me."
Al Unser Jr. gets the hard-charger award for this race after starting 16th and finishing 4th, cutting Vasser's lead to a mere 3 points. Vasser has 102 points, Unser is second with 98 and de Ferran now occupies 3rd with 92 points.
Vasser has produced only a handful of points since the U.S. 500 and had an absolute horrible race today.
"This was just a bad race all around," said Vasser. "We wanted to make it a two-stop race instead of a three-stop, but I made a mistake. I went just a little wide and got off-line In the switch-back (Turns 3 and 4) and caught two cones (actually three) on the exit of the corner. Iím not sure why (the cones) were there, but one ended up in my radiator, and the other on the front wing. the engine started to get a little hot and I had to come in."
Greg Moore picked his way through the field and finished on the podium in 3rd place and moves up the 6th place in the points.
"This says a lot for our crew," Moore said. "They did a great job. We planned a two-stop race; we thought some other guys might have to do three. We just didnít have enough for Gil and Alex today."
Regarding the incident with Eddie Lawson and Parker Johnstone, Eddie was not happy at all with Parker's move on the inside of turn 1; a move very similar to the one that took out de Ferran and Pruett in 1995.
"Well, Iím not real happy right now," Eddie groaned. "We picked up a couple of spots at the start of the race and the car was running great. Itís just too bad that this had to happen. Parker and I were in the middle of Turn 1, and he hit me from behind and knocked my front wheel off when he attempted to pass. Itís just not necessary to do that. With all the power the Honda has, he could have picked a better spot to try that. Iím just really sorry for the team, I felt that we could have walked away with a top 10 finish."
But, Parker basically called it a race incident.
"It was one of those things," Parker said. "Unfortunately, I was stuck in a line of cars where I was only marginally faster. Eddie (Lawson) and I were fighting for territory. I thought Eddie left the inside open a bit so I got inside, but he turned down into the apex. I got hard on the brakes, but we hit. Iím sorry for my team and all the Motorola people who came out here this weekend."
Michael Andretti led much of the race, due to out-of-sequence pitstops. A sequence that would bite him late in the race before going out with drive line failure.
"Considering where we started and the way we battled ourselves back," Andretti said, "itís a real shame not to finish this race on the podium. We had at least a third, who knows what else we could have done. It was a really tough race to come home with nothing. Something in the drive train went. Every time I hit it, the car went sideways. As I came off of turn one, it just went."
"We were right there despite being out of pit sequence. For some reason, all of the fuel didnít go in on my first stop. My team decided to make two short stops so that I would have fresh tires and hopefully catch a yellow. I didnít know I was out of sequence until they told me to come in the third time. It was definitely a tough race. We really needed the points to stay in the top-three and make up some ground on Jimmy. Dropping to fifth puts more pressure on us for Toronto."
So, what had started out to look like a hands-down championship for Jimmy Vasser, now goes to Toronto with the points battle really tightening up among the top three.