Franchitti column

Autosport.com columnist Dario Franchitti took his first pole position of the season, but once again his high hopes turned to disappointment at Elkhart Lake, as he tells us here in his regular column

Franchitti column

The Elkhart Lake weekend started off very well for us. The car was quick straight off the bat and we were challenging straight away on Friday.

We felt we had a really good car for the race. In I knew that if I could get the lap, then the time was in the car. I did the time on my last lap,
I knew because I was low on fuel -- I only had enough to make that last lap and my tyres were and starting to lose their edge - that it was my last chance.

Road America is weird because it has such a long lap that the qualifying timing line is at the last corner, so you can actually do your lap and then come straight into the pits.

So going into turn 1 I went in way too quickly, and I got loads of understeer and ran up on the kerb on the exit. So I lost a bit of time there. Then I did the same thing at turn 2, and by then I was two tenths slower than my best lap from the day before. I was going down the big long straight thinking shall I give up the lap as I'd made a bit of a mess of it, But I stuck with it, and pushed hard to the end of the lap, and I really 'peached' the last three corners

When I saw the time on the board and thought "Christ! What's everybody else up to?!" I was expecting P5 or something, not P1.

Elkhart Lake is a track where you can't really chuck the car around, you have to be super smooth, you can't drive over the limit at all, especially in the slower corners. In the fast stuff you can really push it, and you can find more time, and that little bit extra. You can't really carry too much speed in. It's a tricky place.

It was good to see P1, it's been a long time since Australia which was my last pole almost a year ago. It's nice to get a pole, and the point for that.

The race was just frustrating. Tagliani got a really good start. It's such a long straight and he just towed past me up the hill, and away he went. He was very competitive, and we were saving gas, but having said that, he went a lap longer than us, so their fuel consumption seemed better than ours. We were running second which made me pretty happy.

Montoya short filled in the first round of stops to make up places and he just got ahead as we left the pits. It was quite close! He was running full rich with the fuel, while again we were saving it, so he disappeared up the road.

I was in third, but about 10 laps into that stint I started to lose my gears. First I lost third gear, and that's when I went shooting into the escape road, because I didn't have any de-acceleration from the gearbox. So I had to start using second gear in the corners where I'd normally use third, and that hurt the lap time a bit, plus I had to skip through an extra gear in the braking, so I was braking a lot earlier.

Then second gear went as well! I had no drive when I was braking, but when I accelerated it was fine. As soon as I lifted off the power, the drive went. We were still running very lean on the fuel but somehow we were setting competitive lap times, and I was still making up places!

It was a strange situation, in that we couldn't really bring the car in and park it, we just had to keep running and shaking the car to bits, and if we'd hung on for another nine laps or so we'd could have finished fifth or so in the points. So that was a bit frustrating, and eventually we lost all drive and that was that. Another great race!

A lot of people seemed to have gearbox problems last weekend, but that's no consolation. It's frustrating to put it mildly.

My team mate Paul Tracy did a really good job, I think it helped that the front-runners all had problems, but to come from last to win a race is pretty good. And he didn't have any yellows to help him. He was a happy boy afterwards. He ran up gave me a big hug then disappeared off to the airport!

He was testing at St Louis on Tuesday, and I was at Luguna Thursday and Friday. There's no rest for the wicked at the moment. It's a really busy test, pretty much everyone was at Laguna.

I had some great support at Elkhart, in particular there were three guys from Scotland who had made their way out for the race. All weekend they wore kilts at the track, and had flags and so on. They were really good fun, and after it all I met up with them for a drink on Sunday night. It was a shame we didn't have so much to celebrate, but it again reminded me how much people are following the championship, and how I'm doing, from Europe.

The Team Kool Green car is quick enough, as we showed at Mid-Ohio. But I haven't led a bloody lap all year! That statistic almost makes me laugh more than anything, but it does sum up our year.

Nevermind. I'm only interested in leading one lap at each race, and that's the last one!

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