Dario Franchitti writes for Autosport.com

Autosport.com columnist Dario Franchitti writes a column after every one of his races in this year's CART FedEx World Series. At Long Beach last week he retired in the early stages after a collision with Michel Jourdain.

Dario Franchitti writes for Autosport.com

Well that's been an unusual couple of weeks -- who'd have predicted that we went from the snow at Nazareth to the sun of Long Beach in just a couple of days? For me, it was two more difficult weekends, although the good news is that we are heading the right way. And my team-mate Paul Tracy's win at Long Beach shows that we can do it at Team Kool Green.

At Nazareth the week before we were going OK. The car was loads better. I felt we should have been top 10 in qualifying, as we had the car halfway decent . We just didn't get it right -- and I made a small mistake as well, which didn't help. The car was understeering way too badly, and on a short oval, if the car understeers you have to really slow down to get it into the turn. And that was the problem, couldn't carry the speed, and on a 19 second lap you lose any speed and you're in trouble.

That place, I feel, is just too small to be a race track for us. To drive on your own, yes, it's a great technical challenge to get the car to work and all that, but you can't race there, you can't pass anybody. And with the new wings it's even worse. There's less downforce than there was last year. Last year we used the superspeedway wings there, and I thought that was much better, nicer to drive.

Unfortunately they'll keep the qualifying times from that weekend for the race in May. We'll start 14th, but if we get the car right, we could be alright. I think race set-up wise we're not too bad. We ran a race set-up on Friday and it was pretty good.

I woke up on race morning in my bus in the paddock, and thought: "It's awful quiet..." Then I went to the window of the bus, and looked out and my bike was covered in an inch of snow... Right... Back to bed then! So I tucked myself in and watched the San Marino Grand Prix on TV.

It was really, really cold. We left the track around 2pm and headed for somewhere warmer. I get enough of that kind of weather at home in Scotland during the winter, thank you!

Long Beach is the only street track I haven't won at, and I'd finished second there last year and the year before, so I looked forward to the race there. I like it. It's not a bad track, and they improved it again for this year. They took out a really slow turn, and shortened one of the straights. I'm happy, they took away one of the corners I really hated.

Again we started well, very promising in fact. The car was actually quite good. We really got a handle on the car I think, and Friday's lap before I came across Mauricio was a good three or four tenths quicker, which would have put me P2 or even P1, so we were fairly happy.

We just need to work on overall grip to get a balance that I like in the car. Getting the power down isn't bad. The car was getting off of the hairpin better than ever. So that was good... But I kind of mucked the whole thing up. I basically tried too hard on my first lap and basically put the car into the wall. I turned in too early at the apex of the corner. The car had understeered there all weekend, and this time it turned in and the front just gripped, and I thought: "No...!" and whack -- off she went. That really messed the whole weekend up for us.

In the race it was very difficult to make headway. I think I was two or three places behind Paul in the opening stages. And we'd decided to pit early out of sequence to try and get out of traffic, and try and make time on the track. And obviously that turned out to be the right decision -- because Paul ended up winning the bloody thing!

About five laps after we pitted I was behind Michel Jourdain trying to overtake, and I got past him. But at the next corner I was on the outside and turned in and gave him room, and he just ran into the back of me and took the side out of the right rear tyre. That was that.

I left straight after the race and jumped on a plane back to London and then Scotland before going to Rio next weekend. I've got more training to do, but it'll be good to catch up with friends again. The last few months have been so hectic with the crash and then getting my leg fit again and of course the racing (and Nazareth qualifying!)

I'll head down to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix over the Easter weekend. I'll go and cheer on Kevin McGaritty in the F3000 race there, and I may stay for the GP -- it depends really what's happening. It'll be really busy there at Silverstone, so we'll see. But it'll be good to see a lot of my old friends and sparring partners.

My brother Marino is racing in Formula Ford in England and did well in his first race this year. He qualified fourth, but made a mistake off the start. He's changed teams from last year, and been quick at every test he's done this year, and now that he's with a decent team he can work on the car in tests and so on. He feels good with the people at Aztec, and his confidence is growing. Last year, every time he drove in the wet he was quick, but as soon as he got in the dry he was slow. If you're quick in the wet you've obviously got confidence in what you're doing. So fingers crossed that will keep going.

I'm also glad to see my old mate James Thompson has got a drive in the German Touring Car Championship, or DTM as it's known. I really enjoyed my days in the DTM in 1995 and 1996 - it was a really fun series with a great atmosphere -- he'll have a great time. I raced with him when we both started out, so I'll be watching his progress.

Then it's off to Rio. I qualified on the front row last year, and finished second despite a broken gear shifter which made the restarts a bit tricky. But that was a good result, so let's hope for more of the same on April 30.

For more on Dario, visit his website at

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