Tracy leads KOOL one-two

Paul Tracy led home Team KOOL Green team-mate Dario Franchitti for a glorious one-two in the Molson Indy Vancouver and duly sent the crowd into raptures with a spontaneous 'doughnut' display at the first corner

Tracy leads KOOL one-two

His exuberance was utterly justified. Fresh from signing a deal to stay with Barry Green's team for another five years, he had run a close second to Franchitti until the final pit stops, when the Scotsman stalled and dropped behind his team-mate.

After that it was a formation run to the flag for the KOOL cars on a day when only the inevitable Juan Montoya got close to challenging the team's dominance.

Tracy's second win in a row also jumps him up to second in the standings, just six points behind series leader Michael Andretti.

The first half of the race was, frankly, a shambles. The first start was aborted because the field was not correctly aligned, but they got it right next time around and Franchitti and Tracy duly led away, ahead of Penske pairing Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves. The latter soon had to focus on fending off the feisty Montoya, while Cristiano da Matta slipped past Christian Fittipaldi to take sixth.

Further back, the struggling Player's/Forsythe pair Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier banged wheels fighting for 18th. Four laps later they did the job properly as Tagliani assisted his countryman and team-mate into the turn eight barrier. Everyone avoided the stranded Carpentier apart from Mark Blundell, who must be struggling to remember the last time he had a trouble-free weekend.

The yellows came out for six laps, the caution extended after Kenny Brack let his revs drop too low and stalled on the start/finish line. He was push-started and rejoined last.

Even after the restart the crashes just kept coming. Oriol Servia had just barged ahead of Roberto Moreno for 11th when he spun at the final corner. He rejoined right in front of Tony Kanaan, who then tried to pass him at turn one, only to be rammed hard from behind by Michel Jourdain Jr. Back to yellow...

To be fair to everyone else, Tagliani was the root cause of most of the carnage. Blaming damaged steering from the Carpentier collision, he then slid into the back of Tarso Marques, pushing the Swift driver into Mauricio Gugelmin and taking out both Brazilians. Tagliani survived then went into the tyres all by himself at turn one and gave the pace car more to do.

With Tagliani behaving himself for a while, the crowd was finally treated to some green flag racing. Franchitti quickly opened out a 5s lead over Tracy as the KOOL Green cars lapped a second faster than the chasing Penskes. Montoya looked to have the pace to challenge the leaders but was stuck behind Castroneves in fifth. Despite being much quicker through the fast turn five, Montoya was always foiled by Castroneves' excellent late-braking into turn six.

The leaders pitted on lap 42, with Franchitti and Tracy staying first and second. Memo Gidley and Adrian Fernandez had both pitted under earlier cautions so leapt to third and fourth, ahead of Montoya, the latter jumping the Penskes in the pits.

Marlboro Team Penske's day was about to fall apart though. First Castroneves found himself heading down the turn six escape road at high speed as his right front suspension collapsed, then de Ferran was given a drive-through penalty for crossing the blend line too early as he left the pits and nearly collected Moreno.

Franchitti kept his 5s lead after the stops, and with Montoya still stuck behind Fernandez in fourth after Gidley pitted for service, the Scotsman looked comfortable.

However, when Shinji Nakano demolished his Walker Reynard at turn seven with 40 laps to go, almost everyone made their final pit visits. It was here that disaster struck for Franchitti as he stalled and dropped behind Tracy.

In fact both KOOL Green cars should have dropped behind Montoya too. A communication problem at Ganassi meant that the Columbian stayed out and should have taken the lead, but more confusion with the pace car meant that he ended up third, and with the lapped Moreno and Servia between himself and the leaders.

At the restart Montoya wasted little time in disposing of the lapped cars, although he had to repass Moreno after losing momentum when his Lola briefly jumped out of gear. The champion quickly closed in the Green Reynards but just as he was set to challenge Franchitti for second, he coasted to a halt having run out of fuel.

Alex Tagliani update: having spun while trying to warm his tyres under the previous yellow and then crashed into the tyres while trying to catch the pace car queue having received a push-start, the Canadian retires in the pits. In case you had forgotten, this rookie led most of the race at Road America a fortnight ago...

With Montoya gone, da Matta moved into third. Having also stayed out at the second round of stops, the PPI driver was hoping that another yellow would allow him to complete the race on just one pit stop, but he was forced to dive in for a splash-and-go with four laps remaining.

Up front, Barry Green ordered his two drivers to hold station. They still set a very hot pace however, and Franchitti didn't always look like he was content to sit behind his team-mate. They did as they were told and eventually finished in the desired order, 0.3s apart.

Fernandez wound-up third, his early pit stop paying dividends and allowing him to hold off a train of cars to the flag. The unobtrusively impressive Fittipaldi was fourth ahead of the recovering de Ferran and Jimmy Vasser. The latter lost ground at the pit stops but charged hard in the closing stages.

Da Matta was left an unrepresentative seventh after his late stop, ahead of Rahal pair Max Papis and Kenny Brack. The latter lost four places after being pushed sideways by Vasser late in the race.

Moreno was off the pace in tenth and struggling with an engine problem. He narrowly beat Servia, while Andretti's attempt to make it to the end on a single stop failed as he ground to a halt on the final lap. He was classified 12th so at least salvaged one point.

For a race in which one team held such a clear advantage, the Vancouver event provided a surprising number of thrills and spills. With five drivers now covered by ten points at the top of the championship table, plus the likes of Montoya, Castroneves, Franchitti and da Matta now out of the running and therefore with little to lose, expect more fireworks when the teams arrive at Laguna Seca in a week's time.




1 Paul Tracy Green Reynard-Honda 90 laps
2 Dario Franchitti Green Reynard-Honda + 0.384s
3 Adrian Fernandez Patrick Reynard-Ford + 19.031s
4 Christian Fittipaldi Newman-Haas Lola-Ford + 19.614s
5 Gil de Ferran Penske Reynard-Honda + 20.113s
6 Jimmy Vasser Ganassi Lola-Toyota + 20.559s
7 Cristiano da Matta PPI Reynard-Toyota + 31.948s
8 Max Papis Rahal Reynard-Ford + 45.442s
9 Kenny Brack Rahal Reynard-Ford + 45.832s
10 Roberto Moreno Patrick Reynard-Ford + 1 lap
11 Oriol Servia PPI Reynard-Toyota + 1 lap
12 Michael Andretti Newman-Haas + 2 laps (DNF)
13 Alex Barron Coyne Lola-Ford + 2 laps
14 Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Reynard-Mercedes + 5 laps
15 Luiz Garcia Jr Arciero PRG Reynard-Mercedes + 6 laps

Non-finishers:

Memo Gidley Della Penna Reynard-Toyota
Juan Montoya Ganassi Lola-Toyota
Alex Tagliani Forsythe Reynard-Ford
Shinji Nakano Walker Reynard-Honda
Helio Castroneves Penske Reynard-Honda
Mauricio Gugelmin PacWest Reynard-Mercedes
Tarso Marques Coyne Swift-Ford
Michel Jourdain Jr Bettenhausen Lola-Mercedes
Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Reynard-Ford
Mark Blundell PacWest Reynard-Mercedes

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