Gidley's up-and-down week

Memo Gidley, the 'supersub' Indycar driver ended a bizarre week of ups and downs by running out of fuel in the Long Beach Champ Car round - just after having led the race! "I try to keep my internal roller coaster as flat as possible. I don't want it to be too high up, and I don't want it to be too low," claimed Gidley - he has not been able to live up to that this last week, which has nonetheless been good for his career

Gidley's up-and-down week

Gidley was brought to the attention of the motorsport community at large last year when he was selected above other hopefuls like Guy Smith, to drive for Walker Racing after Naoki Hattori's accident.

However, the American thought he had lost the chance to race in CART again this season when Walker (whose driver Shinji Nakano injured himself in testing) chose Bryan Herta to stand in.

Nevertheless, Gidley bounced back by passing his Indianapolis rookie test with flying colours, but was expecting that the slim possibility of a ride at this year's Indy 500 would be his only drive of the year.

However, when Patrick Carpentier damaged his wrist while carrying a suitcase up the stairs at his home, Gidley was the ideal choice for the top-line Player's team.

"We felt that he would be pretty much the perfect guy to fill in for Patrick on a short-term basis," explained Neil Mickelwright, the team manager at Player's.

On his first Champcar start since last October 17th in Australia, the Californian qualified a career-best of tenth, just days after passing through the Indy 500 rookie test in a mere eighty minutes.

Mickelwright added "our expectations were reasonably high, and having looked at Memo's progress last year and how he ran in Formula Atlantic in '98, we held him in fairly high esteem."

However, Gidley was unfazed by the prospect of driving for such a successful team after not having stepped into a Champ Car for six months.

"Whether it's the test I did last year with Walker Racing having never driven a Champcar before, to taking my rookie test at Indy on Monday, back to my first Toyota Atlantic test, even way back to my first Formula Ford test, every situation has been similar to the one this weekend," said Gidley.

"Basically, the deal is get in the car and drive and see what you can do with it. That situation has always opened up further opportunities for me."

Gidley decided to gamble on fuel strategy after qualifying down the order, and it was this decision that led, directly or indirectly, to the number 32 car leading, then running out of fuel.

"I think the car was capable of running faster than where I qualified," explained Gidley, "so we knew we were going to be stuck behind some slower cars in the first segment. We just conserved fuel, ran as fast as we could without having to push too hard, and as soon as the leaders ducked into the pits, I was able to rip off a couple of pretty good laps with nobody ahead of me."

The gamble appeared to be paying off, and Carpentier raved about the performance of the car in clear air after his rivals had pitted.

"It's very difficult to pass, so you can be a little bit faster than someone and not be able to get around them. All of a sudden you're not waiting for somebody in front of you-it's like letting a horse run wild. As soon as I saw clear track, I thought, it's just me and the track, so drive as fast as you possibly can. I knew there was a long way to go, but the car was exceptional."

However, after leading, Gidley's pitstop did not go according to plan. The Player's Reynard Ford was out on the track in short order, but within a few laps, Gidley had radioed that the fuel warning light was flashing.

Apparently, a malfunctioning shut off valve refused to let any fuel into the car, costing Gidley what looked to be a podium finish.

"Nobody was happy about it, it was definitely a letdown" said they second-year CART competitor. "It's not something anybody forgets. It's like if I make a mistake on the track I try not to let it happen again. The Players crew will do exactly the same."

"It's a roller coaster, you know. Running for this team is everything I imagined racing to be: good equipment, good guys, and everybody's dedicated. This is why I'm in it, to be with an organization like Players-it's been great. I've driven with good teams before, like Walker Racing, but as I get better I know more about what I want out of the car, and this team is capable of achieving those things. We worked hard on the setup, and by the end of this morning's practice we had the best car I've ever driven on a street course."

" I just love being out on a track driving fast," claimed Gidley. He will get his chance on April 30th when he rejoins the Player's team for the Rio race -the first time he has competed on an oval in Champ Car competition.

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