Race No. 8
Moore Makes It Five In A Row For Canadians
PacWest's fuel gamble in Detroit backfires!!!
By Wayne Duval
©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.
Greg Moore capitalized on the misfortune of PacWest Racing Team drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell to win his second race in the CART/PPG World Championship Series. Last weekend, the 22-year old Canadian became the youngest driver in history to win a CART race with a victory over a hard-charging Michael Andretti on the Milwaukee Mile (Miller 200) in West Allis, Wisconsin. Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing, Reynard-Mercedes) won the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix today when both PacWest Racing Team entries (Gugelmin and Blundell) ran out of fuel on the last lap. PacWest rolled the dice on a single pit stop strategy which would have worked if there had have been another caution period. The gamble was so close that the disappointed Blundell coasted to a stop leaving the last corner about a quarter of a mile before the finish line.
The outcome of this event-packed race would probably have been quite different for PacWest if CART officials had called for a full-course yellow when Parker Johnstone pulled off the course (oil leak) with only six laps remaining. CART safety personnel were able to move Parker's Reynard-Honda away from the racing line quickly, thereby avoiding the need for an additional caution period. Even one lap under the yellow at this point would have given Gugelmin and Blundell enough fuel to finish the race.
The win is the fifth in a row for Canadian drivers in the series, with Paul Tracy taking the checkered flag in Nazareth (PA), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Madison (IL). While the combination of Paul Tracy and Jacques Villeneuve also managed to win five races in row, this winning streak spanned two seasons (1994 and 1995) compared with the current record of five consecutive wins in a single season. Marlboro Team Penske driver Paul Tracy was withdrawn from the race after experiencing severe cervical muscle spasms and mild vertigo yesterday and in the warmup session this morning. Nevertheless, Tracy retains a slight lead (94 points) over Michael Andretti (86 points) and Greg Moore (85 points) heading into the ninth race of the series on June 22 in Portland, Oregon.
Michael Andretti (Swift-Ford) closed the points gap on Tracy with his consecutive 2nd place finish, while pole-sitter Gil de Ferran (Reynard-Honda) collected the same number of points as Michael for his third place finish, pole position, and leading the most laps.
The Detroit race also marked the first event of this season where drivers of Toyota-powered cars have earned any championship points. Juan Fangio II and Max Papis finished 10th and 11th, respectively.
Other teams and drivers were less fortunate. Fourth place starter Alex Zanardi lost any chance to move into second place in the championship race when rookie Dario Franchitti ran into the back of his car in the first turn, causing it to slide into the wall and sustain front suspension damage. The struggling Tasman Racing Group team lost both entries (Andre Ribeiro and Adrian Fernandez) after separate accidents in the first 10 laps, while the opportunity for Dario Franchitti to close the points gap on Patrick Carpentier in the rookie race were snuffed out by a costly pit stop where a fuel hose malfunctioned, combined with a subsequent black flag for a dragging front wing endplate.
There were five caution periods and six lead changes during the race, with most of the latter occurring during pit stops. There were very few locations on this temporary circuit on Belle Isle in the Detroit River where it was possible to safely pass. Several drivers commented during the course of the weekend on the narrow blind corners and very bumpy surface that adversely affected handling and led to driver fatigue.
The championship points race has tightened considerably because of the success of Moore and Andretti in Detroit, combined with the need for Marlboro Team Penske to withdraw Paul Tracy from the event for safety reasons. Only nine points separate these three drivers going into the next race in Portland, and each of them is highly motivated to win and has achieved a lot of success so far this season.