Franchitti column: no Rio Carnival

In his regular column, Dario this week talks us through his Rio race, his trip to a muddy Silverstone, and his wedding plans

Franchitti column: no Rio Carnival

As you know, I went to Silverstone in England the weekend before the Rio CART race to see the British Grand Prix, and catch up with some of my old racing colleagues. One of the highlights was seeing my fellow Scot David Coulthard win the race, beating his McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher. I had a real shock this week when I heard that David had been involved in a plane crash. Fortunately, he and his fiancee Heidi and friend Andy Matthews were pretty much OK. Sadly, the pilot and co-pilot lost their lives in the crash, and I share my thoughts with their families at this difficult time.

In this job there are a lot of things that you have to deal with, but travel can be one of the more inconvenient aspects. Using private jets is one way to save so much time. Without them, most of our lives would be spent waiting at airports. The type of plane David and his friends were on is the same as the one I use. I called him this week to make sure he was OK -- he and his business manager called me after my crash at Miami. And especially having seen him win just days before at Silverstone in probably one of the best races of his career... I was so happy for his win, he was just blinding. I hope it doesn't affect him too much, and I'm sure it won't. At Silverstone he was mighty, not taking anything from anyone, very impressive, and I hope he continues that way.

It was great to see a lot of old friends at Silverstone, even if the weather was so awful. Gil de Ferran was there, too - actually it was his idea to go. He said to me at Miami: "Come to the British Grand Prix". And so when I saw him in the pit lane at Silverstone I said: "Gil. Thanks for the great idea mate, look at the weather!" I went and stayed at Touring Car driver Jason Plato's house one night, and they are a great laugh, so that was good fun. But my main reason to go was to cheer on Kevin McGarrity in the F3000 race. Sadly, he had a disaster, which was a shame.

Rio for us at Team Kool Green was another progression forward. Qualifying was frustrating because we got the car OK and then I made a mistake. I liked the car and was feeling happier. Then I made a mistake in turn four and I lost 0.2s which would have put me fourth on the grid. It was good to have the potential to be at the front, but frustrating when you know it could have been that much better.

At the start someone hit me on the run down to the first corner and broke the front wing, so we suffered with some handling problems because of that. And in the race, really, we weren't quick enough. We were struggling a bit on the straight and under braking. And I spun it in the pits which didn't help us. When you first drive a car set up for the oval, your first impression is that as you leave the pits it just wants to turn left. You quickly adapt, but this time it was unusual because it spun the wheels as I left the crew, then stopped spinning the wheels, and then it started again -- and that's what caught me. Normally once it stops that's it, you're done. It caught me, and round I went. I think it was the Players guys that pushed me back away from the wall, and I spun it back round and only lost two places.

We were looking for a sixth place finish, and then Alex Tagliani spun it from the lead with eight laps to go. He lit the tyres up and I couldn't see a thing through the smoke. Absolutely nothing. I started to brake pretty hard, and lucky I did, because he was straight ahead of me. But again the bloody car swapped ends on me! That was really frustrating. Then they re-started them first - I was sat there thinking, "Come on guys, he caused it, get him out of the bloody way." When the old luck isn't with you, it's not with you.

Motegi in Japan next weekend is a good track. We weren't that strong there last year, but we've got a different set-up now and we're reasonably confident. Honda's done a lot of work to really give us strong power for that race. We'll just take it one step at a time and see how far up we can get. Every time we get out on the track we get a bit better, myself and my engineer getting more track time. It's still progression, each time we've got closer. We're definitely going in the right direction.

I'd like to think we've got all of our bad races out of the way for the season and that we can get back on our game at Motegi. With it being Honda's home track and a Firestone-sponsored race, it certainly would be a good time to turn things around.

But as bad as things have gone, I've got to say I'm really proud of the guys on Team KOOL Green. They're not down or lost their focus or any of their will to win. If anything, they miss the good times that come with winning and are that much more determined to get back on top.

Motegi is one of the best racing events in the world in or out of Champ Car racing. The facility is second to none - and I don't just mean the circuit and garages, but the hotel, road course, dirt oval and Honda museum - it's just fantastic. And the fans always amaze you with their knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. It really makes you feel good to be a part of this series and you want to go out and put on a great race.

After Japan we've got two days testing at Milwaukee, which is good. I'm just looking forward to getting more time in the car. The new testing restrictions for this year have really hurt us, because we can't just go out there and rack up the testing miles. We worked it out that I have done less than 500 miles testing since Fontana last year... So that sums it up, and that's why we're struggling. Over a period of five months I did 200 miles in the car - which is not enough, but we had a plan that I was going to be in the car all February and March and get the miles, but then I had the accident, and so we started the season behind where we wanted to be. But we're working hard, and we're going the right way, and there are still a lot of races left.

And, yes, as you may have seen it in the papers. Ashley and I are getting married... And thank you all for your messages of congratulations. It's great to know the support we have out there. It means a lot.

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