Franchitti column

Autosport.com columnist Dario Franchitti's wretched season continued with retirement from the Houston race on the first lap. With 18 races down, and just two to go, the Scot is still chasing that first win of the year. Here in his regular column he tells us about the highs and lows from Houston

Franchitti column

I don't think I'd have believed it if you'd told me at the start of the season that with just two races left we'd still be chasing that first win. There's no doubt the speed has been there with the Team KOOL Green car, but what has been missing is the luck.

We've qualified on the first two rows now in the last six races, so we've been in the right positions. As Barry Green, the team boss says, it's hard to understand why we haven't won a race this year.

Houston is a track that I've always done well at, and qualifying this time was no exception. We were on provisional pole after Friday's session, but towards the end of the session I locked up the right-front tyre, clipped the wall and that was it for the day.

At first I thought I out-braked myself, but then I looked at the data from our telemetry and I'd braked at the same point I had all along. I flat-spotted the right front tire earlier in the lap and that probably had as much to do with it as anything. We made some changes through the session, which helped, and to be 'P1' is always a good feeling.

Unfortunately, even though we had the fastest time, it also meant that I had to miss the final eight minutes of qualifying on Saturday which is CART's penalty for causing a red flag. So I was happy on one side, and upset on the other.

On Saturday, Gil de Ferran beat my time early in the session, and I couldn't go any quicker before I had to pit to miss the final eight minutes for the penalty. It's pretty difficult being in the pits watching the others qualifying and not being able to do anything about it but sit and watch the timing monitors. I sat and watched... and no-one beat my time which was something of a relief.

It was disappointing not to be on pole, but that time was really all the car had, and I was pushing it to the absolute limit. But the guys have always given me a good car for the race and we hoped that that would be the case this time. We had a few areas we needed to address, but I was confident we could run up front.

Sadly we didn't get the chance to find out. At Houston we take the green flag on the back straight as there's more room to what will be the first corner. Gil got away from me, and I guess Jimmy Vasser got a pretty good start. He got up inside of me and once one person gets up inside there it's like a freight train coming through and I couldn't get back in the line. I guess you could say I was 'hung out to dry', and lost five or six places.

I was on the outside of what was the second corner after the start (turn six). I put the power down and the back started to slide wide and just caught the wall with the rear tyre as we came out of the corner. As the back hit then it came around and the right front hit. I carried on, but as I got to turn one, something broke and off it went.

At first I thought it might have been a puncture, but having seen the tape the right front suspension collapsed and I was a passenger into the tyres. Game over.

My thoughts now turn to Australia and California. We'll just keep doing what we've been doing, and hope that all of us at Team Green get the reward that we've worked for all year. I've also begun my preparations for 2001 - you can never be too early! We're getting our testing schedule together, and we'll be ready come the first race.

Right now I'm off doing some promotions in Los Angeles for the Fontana race along with my team mate Paul Tracy, and we're due to spend some time with the California Highway Patrol, better known as ChiPs. Someone said there used to be a TV cop show in the 70s which was really good, but that was obviously way before my time... Only joking!

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