Franchitti column

Autosport.com's columnist Dario Franchitti's torrid CART season continued with a first corner retirement at Surfers Paradise. The Scottish driver braked to avoid a collision in front of him between series leader Gil de Ferran and reigning champion Juan Montoya, and was hit from behind, as he tells us here in his regular column

Franchitti column

If my diaries corresponded to the length of my races then at the moment they would be just one word -- and it wouldn't be a terribly nice word either...

On Tuesday after Houston I had a PR day with the California Highway Patrol, or ChiPs. We stopped a couple of people speeding, and it was interesting to see what happens from the 'other side' as it were. I'm glad we didn't have to wear their uniforms though. I saw pictures of David Coulthard in New York before the Indianapolis Grand Prix in an NYPD uniform and all I could think of was the Village People and YMCA! Sorry DC...!

It's a long flight to Surfers, but it's always worth it because the atmosphere around the race is fantastic. They really know how to put on a good event, and the whole area becomes part of it. Quite a few of the CART scene went early, and a couple of us drivers got together and mucked around; Juan Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Michel Jourdain and Oriol Servia were part of it, and a friend from Vancouver, Al. We went on a bike ride with Mick Doohan who was down there as well. When you think of what Mick's legs have been through it's incredible. When I tell you he was cruising and we were pushing to stay with him, then you realise why he has the respect he has. The guy's a star.

We also went jet skiing, playing on boats, the usual 'dangerous' activities drivers shouldn't do, but, well, end up doing! In all honesty it's a good job I did all that because otherwise it was a bloody long way to go for a couple of hundred yards racing.

We qualified on the second row, which is the seventh time in a row we've been in the first four on the grid. While that's a great statistic, and one that shows we are quick with the Team Kool Green car, it's also a bloody frustrating one as we haven't got the results off the back of it. And most of the time it's been through no fault of our own. It's very disappointing. I mean everybody's driving a bit crazy just now, there's no doubt about it. You can tell that by the fact that no one seems to want to win the championship. When you think that last year Juan and myself tied on 212 points, but this time Gil is leading with 153... And four guys can still win!

I'd qualified on the second row with my team mate Paul Tracy, behind Gil de Ferran and Juan Montoya. At the start Gil and Juan touched and went off, and for a fleeting millisecond I though to myself 'yes!' Then next thing I know I get a thump up the back and I'm off too. I can't believe how many times I've been out of races like this this year, but here I was again, in the wall, facing the pack.

The worst thing was that it was Jimmy (Vasser) who hit me. I know he didn't mean it. It was one of those chain reaction things, that's kind of unavoidable. I was talking with Jimmy and Tony Kanaan after and Tony said he was right behind Jimmy and saw him hit the brakes and the car locked up solid - he heard no noise from the engine, just off of the tyres! But it was all triggered with Gil and Juan getting too close in front. It was actually quite a big hit for Juan.

I got out, and Juan was walking up the pit-lane, and I'd seen how hard he'd hit, so I ran up to him to make sure he was OK, and I got stopped by this marshal who thought I was going to thump him or something!

I went back to my hotel room to watch the rest of the race, and Juan came and joined me and we ordered lunch from room service and watched the rest of the race from the balcony. Very civilised! We had a great view of it all - there was a lot to watch, it was crazy!

So one race to go, at Fontana on October 29. Obviously my goal is to win. If someone had said at the start of the year that now I'd still be chasing my first win of the season with just one chance left I'd have laughed at them. But that's the situation I'm in.

We had a very productive test at Fontana last month. We tried aerodynamic bits and did engine work for Honda and set-ups for the race. At Michigan in July - the other 500 mile race -- we were quick in qualifying, but ran out of grip in the race, and even so finished third. Hopefully our work will pay off and we'll get something here in California.

But there are so many variables in one of those races, and as we proved last year, anything can happen. Let's say I think we'll be competitive. There's a million dollars just to win this race, so I don't think any of the championship guys will get any favours from the rest of us who fancy the glory and the cash! I know Montoya really wants to win his last race before going to F1.

It's the last race of the year, and I'm pushing. There's only "maximum attack" and to go for the win. When I say that, it's a 500 mile race, and anything can happen. What I am saying is that we're quick enough for the win... The rest is down to the luck of a 500 miler!

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