By John Oreovicz
LAUSITZ, Germany--What was shaping up as an exciting race was shrouded in sadness when two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi was seriously injured (see related report above) in an accident with 12 laps to go in The American Memorial at EuroSpeedway.
Kenny Brack led Max Papis in a Team Rahal 1-2 in CART's European debut before 87,689 fans as the final 12 laps were run under yellow. Patrick Carpentier was third and Michael Andretti fourth.
The win, which was Brack's fourth in six oval starts this year in the Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola, propelled the Swedish ace back into the Vanderbilt Cup points lead. His 131 points put him ahead of Gil de Ferran (eighth in Germany after suffering handling problems) by 11 points, with Andretti another five points in arrears. Helio Castroneves (111 points) rounds out what should be an exciting four-man battle for the CART title.
Brack enjoyed massive support in Germany from his many European fans, but he took little pleasure from the win given news of Zanardi's condition.
"We had a pretty good car all day," Brack said. "We made one less fuel stop than a lot of the guys, and that strategy paid off in the end, obviously. For Team Rahal, it was a needed result in our quest for the championship.
"But it's very unfortunate the incident near the end happened," he added. "So our condolences to all the people who were involved in the incidents in the United States and also to Alessandro."
Brack led the first 63 laps before he misjudged a maneuver while lapping Bruno Junqueira and nearly spun. But he collected his Shell machine after driving it through the Turn 1 grass and lost only one position--to Carpentier.
Patrick led from Lap 64 to 94 until he was passed by practice pacesetter Tony Kanaan. Zanardi soon moved up to make a Mo Nunn Racing 1-2, and he and Kanaan waged an intense battle for the lead from Lap 124 to Lap 141, when Kanaan made his final pit stop. At that point, the Nunn teammates were seven seconds ahead of Brack and nearly 30 seconds ahead of Carpentier, who was disputing fourth with his teammate Alex Tagliani.
Zanardi's lead over Kanaan had been 0.2 second on the lap before Tony pitted for his 7.0-second splash-and-go. Zanardi pitted a lap later and his Mo Nunn Racing crew produced a stellar 5.5-second stop that should have put the Italian back on track ahead of his stablemate. But Zanardi spun leaving the pits and made heavy contact with Tagliani between Turns 1 and 2.
The debris from the accident guaranteed that the race would run under
caution to the finish. That ensured that Brack, Papis and Carpentier--who had been conserving fuel in an effort to finish the 500-kilometer race on just three pit stops--were able to maintain their places to the yellow and checkered flags.
"We were trying to make sure that we wouldn't have to pit one more time in the end," Brack admitted.
Papis turned in what might have been the best drive of his six-year Champ Car career by moving from 16th to second.
"I want to thank everyone in Germany who put up a great facility and put on a great event," Papis said. "Unfortunately, what has happened in the United States and what happened here in the last laps with my friend Alex made it dark. It's very difficult to enjoy.
"This is a sporting event, and sporting events are about will and joy," Max continued. "There is not much of that at the moment, but I hope that everybody could see the will that people had to succeed in the race and the will to win and achieve their goals ... maybe this can give inspiration to some of the people who have lost a lot of things in this last week. So my prayers go to the people of the United States and to Alex."
Carpentier has scored more points than any other driver in the last six
races, during which time he visited the podium four times.
"I had to slow down at the end to save a lot of fuel, so I lost the lead," he said. "I was trying to finish the race, and I didn't know there was going to be a yellow. I was hoping to go under green because I didn't know if those guys could finish. But it was good. My car went to push, and I lost communication with the team early in the race. So we had a few problems, but the team managed to be up front."
Andretti and Team Green committed early to a four-stop strategy, which might have paid off had the race run green to the end. But fourth place kept him solidly in the championship hunt. Michael finished ahead of Oriol Servia (the second straight fifth-place finish for the Spaniard and the Sigma Autosport team) and Tora Takagi, who posted a CART career-best for the second race in a row.
Kanaan was seventh, having conclusively turned the fastest lap of the race, 0.3 second faster than Zanardi and 0.6 second faster than Papis.