Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on June 10, 1996 · Page 32
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 32

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Monday, June 10, 1996
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CD DETROIT FREE PRESS MONDAY, JUNE 10, 1996 4- De Ferran slips, slides to third-place finish By Nicholas J. Cotsonika and Steve Crowe Free Press SporU Writers For a brief moment Sunday, Gil de Ferran sat backward beyond Turn 2, cursing himself as he looked into oncoming traffic. It didn't take long to get turned around. ,.; "I thought, 'You idiot,' " de Ferran said. It was so silly, but it wasn't hard to get back. Not hard at all." - De Ferran finished third at the Detroit Grand Prix, 5.283 seconds behind winner Michael Andretti. But the mis- 5 ftp on the 25th lap made it look like e Ferran would be left out in the rain. Coming out of the pits after changing his tires from rains to slicks, de-Ferran hit some moisture and spun out. He didn't blame it on the tires, however. It was a mental mistake. "'' "I forgot to turn the speed control off," de Ferran said, referring to the device that keeps cars under the 60 m.p.h. speed limit on pit road. "It had too much throttle, and the rear just came around. I deactivated it at the wrong time." Since the series opener in Miami, where he was second, 1996 has been tough on de Ferran. He grabbed the r. . .. . . t ?T i J M i )'''" ' -it .-' f ! v 9 a-.' ,J lull I ,. -:-lr PWI - - Call it a blue-light special a 1-2 finish for the Kmart-sponsored cars of re v.. l J " ; " LaJL. B " AUTo iki.XXi GMMka i ; , AUTOMOTIVE " i f l.grm t.:;lL.l . .,. I Hail to the victors, Michael Andretti, center, Christian Fittipaldi, left, who came in second, and third-place tjinisher Gil de Ferran. jYounger Fittipaldi surpasses the Elder Charlie Vincent, from Page id nish to win his second straight race. The Younger finished 2.41 seconds after the checkered flag flew over Andretti's car. He was, as he said later, "the first Ijaser." But he did not really feel that fay. Christian FittiDaldi. 25 years old. sees Sunday's second-place finish not is an ending but as a beginning, not as a )ss but as a glimpse of what can be. "We are two drivers after the same award, but from different periods of ime," he said of himself and Andretti, &is Newman-Haas teammate. Michael has won 33 times and is frying to remain up there, and I am trying to break in I've been in jjidyCars a year and a half, and this is eally my first opportunity in the whole $f my motor racing career to win." Fittipaldi like Unser, Andretti, Villeneuve and Petty is a name that transcends generations in racing. Christian's father, Wilson, raced in Formula One and Emerson was a two-feme Formula One World Champion before moving to IndyCar, where he fron 20 races from 1985 until 1993, and only twice since. Sunday the 49-year-old Emerson i- who seems to be putting miles Behind him and little else went out fter 36 laps, when his car banged into a tire wall, breaking its rear suspension and relegating him to a 25th-place finish in the 27-car field. j? Since winning at Nazareth, Pa., in April 1995, he has seldom run among fiie leaders. In the 19 races since, he lias been in the top five just four times pole in Long Beach but finished fifth, and he didn't place higher than ninth in the other five races. So de Ferran was pleased with his recovery and finish on Belle Isle. "We haven't done very well lately," de Ferran said. "It's quite good for us to be in the thick of the fight. Hopefully, this is an indication of things to come." As far as the accident, it's in the past. "I don't think about my mistakes too much," de Ferran said. "I just think, 'You have to make it entertaining for the crowd.' " TIRE TURMOIL: The 10 drivers riding on Firestone tires had major problems in the wet conditions. Grooves had to be cut manually into Firestone's new rain tires to increase traction. "Following this morning's practice, it was confirmed our Firehawks would not be competitive," said Al Speyer, BridgestoneFirestone Motorsports manager. "We obtained IndyCar's permission and cut extra grooves in the tires. While this move provided some help, it failed to achieve the required results." Even though the track dried enough so that all cars had switched to slicks after Lap 32, Firestone drivers could not completely recover. v-.rf '-" jMyflJ .-- j dL. 2 , An R-&7le-"l' ; ail is .-.SB 3 i i " '"VllVfc 3 pX, and has finished 20th or worse seven times, and he is one of the prime exhibits when people comment on transition in IndyCar racing and about the loss of impact of some of the familiar names. And Fittipaldi the Younger is one of the examples of the men who are replacing them. Sunday, he began with a bold rush the moment the green flag dropped in the persistent remnants of a midday rainstorm that left puddles on the track, resulting in rbostertails reminiscent of last week's boat race. In the beginning, the drivers needed not fire-retardant suits but swim suits. I'd have liked to have heard the teams' pre-race check list. "Rain tires!" "Check!" "Windshield wipers!" "Check!" "Bailing buckets!" "Check!" "At the beginning I was really pushing the car," Fittipaldi the Younger said of passing five cars in the first two laps. "I could have done that in , a little bit slower rhythm, but I didn't want the spray in front of me. 1 "And in the rain, we were pretty much covered today." Fittipaldi the Younger would have won under any conditions Sunday, rain or sunshine, if he had the experience of Michael Andretti. Andretti tracked him down and stayed in his shadow, lap after lap. He was stalking, looking for one little mistake, one little slip, one little opening to daylight. Seven laps from the finish, he found Adrian Fernandez finished fourth, but pole-sitter Scott Pruett, who finished 10th, was the only other driver on Firehawks in the top 10. "The big difference for us was the Goodyear tires," Andretti said. "They were just superior to the Fire-stones. ... We knew that if it stayed wet, we'd take out half the field. So I was hoping it would." PADDOCK PUDDLES: Sunday morning's persistent drizzle created some havoc in the IndyCar paddock area. Equipment was submerged, wires were left in standing water and engineers had to deal with muck as much as machines. "It's like working in a swamp," said Team Scandia manager Luke Bennington, whose trailer opened up to a puddle several inches deep and more than two feet wide. "I thought the boat race was last weekend," second-place finisher Christian Fittipaldi said. DODGE DAMAGE: After the accident-filled Neon Challenge on Sunday morning, Chrysler president Robert Lute was asked if the' event would help sell more of the cars. "The more we destroy, the more we have to replace," he said. SPARE PARTS: Sunday's attendance, the Newman-Haas team. Crew members greet Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi after their victory lap, 7 I JSii.iU JULIAN H. GONZALEZDetrolt Free Press it, when Fittipaldi stayed on the accelerator just a bit too long and went to the brake just a bit too late. Andretti was gracious. He said he did nothing brilliant but only took advantage of a small bobble by a younger, less-experienced opponent. "He went a little wide and I was able to take advantage of it," Andretti said. It was a tiny mistake, a lapse not of a second but of an instant. "I knew I was in trouble when I felt the car lock up and the wheels went sideways," Fittipaldi said. "But it was not a big mistake . . . maybe I just went over a small bump. It was a very, very small mistake, a real mistake is when you go into the wall." Christian Fittipaldi has not won an IndyCar race and until Sunday had only one second-place finish in the 1995 Indianapolis 500. But he has a future. His uncle, it seems, has a past. Fittipaldi the Elder seems no longer to have the car, the engine, the zest to win one of these races. He seems a tired racer, lacking the passion that made him so successful. He has had a great career, though. And he is a relative, so there are no words of criticism for him, no judgments, not even any words of consolation from Fittipaldi the Younger. "Emmo is still a great guy," said Christian Fittipaldi. "There's nothing I can say about him yet. He's won Indy two times and two World . Championships in Formula One. Maybe when I am 49 or 48 1 can talk on the same level." clearly affected by the U.S. 500 two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway, was announced as 46,000, down from last year's 62,700. Three-day Prix attendance was 129,000, a considerable dip from last year's 172,000. ... Andretti's three victories this year have touched about all the home bases. "We've won in our hometown, Carl's town, and now in Kmart's hometown," Andretti noted. His hometown is Nazareth, Pa.; his car owner, Carl Haas, is from Milwaukee; and Andretti's sponsor, Kmart, is based in Troy. . . . P.J. Jones' ninth-place finish was the best for the Toyota engine in its IndyCar debut this year. Jones improved from 25th to 1 1th in the first 25 laps, before cars switched to slick, dry-track tires. . . . Newman-Haas Racing's 1-2 finish Andretti and Fittipaldi was the team's first since the 1993 Marlboro 500 at MIS, when Nigel Mansell finished ahead of Mario Andretti. . . . Robby Gordon, on his fourth-lap encounter with the turn 8 tire wall: "Going down the back straight, I didn't think I was running very hard. But obviously I ran off the track. So I must have been running fairly hard." . . . With Jimmy Vasser's 12th-place finish and Andretti's victory, the Indy 1- HOW THEY FINISHED " 1 .gi), t : siSJl ji jL. 1 Results Sunday of the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix Indy-car race at Belle Isle, with driver, starting position In parenthesis, residence or home country, type of car and laps completed (Andretti's winning speed 75.136 rap.h.): POS DRIVER. HOME CAR LAPS i 1. (9) Michael Andretti Nazareth, Pa Lola-Ford 72 & (6) Christian Fittipaldi Brazil Lola-Ford 72 3. (7) GH de Ferran Brazil Reynard-Honda 72 4. (3) Adrian Fernandez Mexico Lola-Honda 72 5. (15) MarkBlundell England Reynard-Ford 72 6. (23) Eddie Lawson Lake Havasu, Ariz. Lola-Mercedes 72 7. (22) Stefan Johansson Sweden Reynard-Mercedes 72 8. (18) Raul Boesel Brazil Reynard-Ford 72 9. (25) "P.J. Jones Rolling Hills, Calif. JEagle-Joyota 72 10. (1) Scott Pruett Crystal Bay, Nev. Lola-Ford 72 11. (5) AlexZanardi Italy Reynard-Honda 71 12. (20) Jimmy Vasser Las Vegas, Nev. Reynard-Honda 71 13. (16) Bryan Herta Dublin, Ohio Reynard-Mercedes 71 14. (4) Parker Johnstone Redmond, Ore. Reynard-Honda 71 15. (21) Jeff Krosnoff La Canada, Calif. Reynard-Toyota 71 16. (19) Maurlcio Gugelmin Brazil Reynard-Ford 71 17. (11) Paul Tracy Canada Penske-Mercedes 71 18. (24) Juan Manuel Fanglo II Argentina Eagle-Toyota 71 19. (26) Hlro Matsushita Japan Lola-Ford 69 20. (14) Greg Moore Canada Reynard-Mercedes 67 21. (8) Bobby Rahal New Albany. Ohio Reynard-Mercedes 61 22. (12) Al Unser Jr. Albuquerque, N.M. Penske-Mercedes 46 23. (13) Roberto Moreno Brazil Lola-Ford 41 24. (2) Andre Rlbeiro Brazil Lola-Honda 37 25. (17) Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil . Penske-Mercedes 36 26. (10) Robby Gordon Orange, Calif. Reynard-Ford .3 27. (27) Michel Jourdaln Jr. Mexico Lola-Ford 0 Time of race: 2:00:44.451. Margin of victory: 2.41 seconds (about six car lengths). Caution flag: Six for 24 laps. Lead changes: Two among three drivers. Lap leaders Pruett 1; C. Fittipaldi 2-65; Andretti 66-72. Point leaders: Vasser 98; Unser 75; Andretti 71; C. Fittipaldi 58; de Ferran 55. Note: Rahal, Unser Jr., Rlbeiro, E Fittipaldi and Gordon forced out by crash; Moreno forced out by exhaust problem; Jourdaln Jr. did not start. v V-.v-rOlhV;. .'-- f Wr f ' j j ,it gmm- ' ' ' w-,, Irmu. ... tt i.t(ti " -Hml. GABRIEL B. Car points race continues to tighten. Vasser who entered Detroit with a 22-point lead over second-place Al Unser Jr. actually improved it to 23 (98-75) because of Unser's wreck-induced finish of 22nd. But by winning, third-place Andretti chopped his deficit to 27 points (98-71). Andretti had trailed by 46 following Milwaukee. DODGE CHALLENGE: Dominic Dobson won the Dodge Challenge Cup on Sunday, but his race began much earlier at the Detroit Grand Prix. He struggled in Super Touring car qualifying on Friday, getting very little time behind the wheel of his Dodge Stratus and coming in last. Then he finished fourth Saturday, ending up nearly eight seconds behind the leader, Darren Law. "We tore the car apart," said Tim Culbertson, project manager for Chrysler who supervised the design and building of Dobson's vehicle in Auburn Hills. "Everything that could be changed was changed." Including Dobson's finish. Dobson crossed the line first in his improved vehicle Sunday, recording his second victory in four races. In May, he won the series opener at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. : -imtlr 'jf."" 1 GABRIEL B. TAITDetrcXt Free Press climbs from his car after only 36 laps and a 25th-place finish. TAITDetrolt Free Press USA! USA! Detroit winners Formula One: 1982-88. IndyCar: 1989-. YEAR DRIVER, COUNTRY 1982 John Watson, Britain 1983 Mlqhele Alboreto, Italy 1984 Nelson Piquet, Brazil 1985 Keke Rosberg, Finland 1986 Ayrton Senna, Brazil 1987 Ayrton Senna, Brazil 1988 Ayrton Senna, Brazil 1 989 Emsrson Fittipaldi, Brazil 1990 Michael Andretti, USA 1991 Emerson Fittipaldi, Brazil 1992 Bobby Rahal, USA 1993 Danny Sullivan, USA 1994 Paul Tracy, Canada 1995 Robby Gordon, USA 1996 Michael Andretti, USA - "We had some hard luck in qualifying," Dobson said. "But today it was everything it should be." '. , Randy Pobst drove his Honda to second place. Peter Hardman brought his Honda home in third, and Ed Delong captured fourth place in his BMW. Andretti edges past Fittipaldi Grand Prix, from Page ID at Nazareth, Pa., and last Sunday at Milwaukee. Andretti is two wins behind No. 4 Bobby Unser on IndyCar's all-time list. Andretti also won in Detroit in 1990, when it was a downtown street race, and won four Prix poles (1989-92). Andretti insisted his winning move was more lucky than good. "I didn't fake him," Andretti said. "I just thought I would really try to stay on him one or two laps, when we were on cold tires. I was right on him as we went into turn 4, noticed he was backing off a bit. It wasn't brilliant. It was just lucky. I just took advantage of a mistake. It wasn't spectacular cr anything." It was just good enough to thwart Fittipaldi, who had led laps 2 through 65. "I made a small mistake near the end," Fittipaldi said of being passed. "I broke a little too late, locked up the wheels, and Michael went by me. What can I say? It's tough to dice against someone who's won 33 races," Sunday morning's rain, which continued early in the race, meant a chance for Goodyear to finally show off its new IndyCar rain tire on a race day. Firestone did Detroit with a far inferior rain tire whose tread patterns were being modified by hand just before the race. Within three 2.1-mile, 14-turn laps, pole winner Scott Pruett's Firestone-fitted car had dropped to fourth place behind three Goodyear customers. By the 25th lap, the track was dry enough for all to switch to regular slick tires. Including third-place Gil de Ferran, eight of the top nine finishers were on Goodyear tires. Asked the last time he drove in a "wet-dry race," Andretti said: "I don't remember. It's been a few years, maybe in 1992 or '91. It always makes for an exciting race. "The different for all three of us up here were the Goodyear tires. In the wet, they were just far superior to Firestone." Andretti, who remains third in series points, said his mind was set dn second as Sunday's laps wound down. "Coming to the end I thought we were going to be getting a good payoff for points for second place, just trying to have patience," said Andretti, 33, sponsored by Troy-based Kmart. "Then I was just lucky enough to win the race. "Winning here in Kmart's hometown is huge for us, and doing it in a 1-2 fashion is even bigger for us. In three of our first four races, I believe we were in position to do what we did today.' "But because of bad luck, it didn't happen. But with today's good luck, things worked out well." For the second straight Sunday, Andretti was aided by a recent IndyCar rules change he dislikes or disliked. At an oval, such as Milwaukee, restarts are now double file, with leaders on the outside and unhindered by lapped traffic. That put Andretti on leader Al Unser Jr.'s tail for a late restart and subsequent pass. On a road course such as Belle Isle, restarts now are done with cars lined up in position. That kept Andretti in passing position behind Fittipaldi when the time came. "I believe it did help me again," Andretti confirmed. "I think they're doing everything they can to get me to support the thing." A

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