Firestone Firehawk 500 Race Report - 2001

5/21/2001 4:39:28 PM

Honda Racing Report
Saturday, May 19, 2001

Firestone Firehawk 500 Race Report
Circuit: Twin Ring Motegi (1.54-mile oval) Motegi, Japan
2000 Winner: Michael Andretti (Ford) 157.154 mph race average
Weather: Partly cloudy, warm, 78-degrees F

Race Results:

Fn. St. Driver                Manufacturer    Laps Average Speed/Notes
1.   6. Kenny Brack           Ford Cosworth   201
2.   1. Helio Castroneves     Honda           201 -3.650 seconds
3.   4. Tony Kanaan           Honda           200 Running
4.  14. Christian Fittipaldi  Toyota          200 Running
5.  21. Jimmy Vasser          Toyota          200 Running
6.  17. Max Papis             Ford Cosworth   200 Running
7.   8. Alex Zanardi          Honda           199 Running
8.  13. Shinji Nakano         Honda           199 Running
9.  20. Scott Dixon           Toyota          198 Running
10. 23. Roberto Moreno        Toyota          198 Running
11.  7. Michele Jourdain      Ford Cosworth   197 Running
12. 25. Mauricio Gugelmin     Toyota          197 Running
13.  3. Gil de Ferran         Honda           194 Not running - oil line
16.  9. Adrian Fernandez      Honda           148 Not running - electrical
17.  2. Dario Franchitti      Honda           126 Not running - exhaust
18. 16. Paul Tracy            Honda            77 Not running - gearbox
23.  7. Michael Andretti      Honda            33 Not running - gearbox

Castroneves Second for Honda at Motegi

A second place finish for Honda powered Helio Castroneves at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit moved the Marlboro Team Penske driver into second place in the early season points standings for the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series, and moved Honda into a tie for the Manufacturer's Championship lead.

The Brazilian led a total of 84 laps of the Firestone Firehawk 500, and was one of three Honda powered drivers to lead a portion of the 201-lap contest. Finishing in third, his best result of the season to date, Tony Kanaan led 40 laps in his Mo Nunn Racing Honda.

At the end of the 500-kilometer race, it was Kenny Brack scoring his first CART victory, leading the final 50 laps and holding off challenges from both Kanaan and Castroneves.

Dario Franchitti, who led briefly, Paul Tracy, Alex Zanardi and Gil de Ferran also contended for the win, but all save Zanardi were eventually eliminated from the contest with mechanical failures. Fernandez Racing teammates Adrian Fernandez and Shinji Nakano also had strong runs, with Nakano's eighth place result equaling his previous best CART finish. Fernandez, however, dropped out late in the race with electrical failure.

The FedEx Championship Series swing of oval races continues, returning to the United States for its next event, June 3 at the Milwaukee Mile.

Driver's Championship (after 4 of 21 races)    Manufacturer's Championship
 1. Kenny Brack           49 points            1. Honda             70 points
 2. Helio Castroneves     47                   2. Toyota            70
 3. Cristiano da Matta    40                   3. Ford Cosworth     52
 4. Paul Tracy            40
 5. Jimmy Vasser          40
 6. Gil de Ferran         30
 7. Tony Kanaan           26
 8. Scott Dixon           24                   Rookie of the Year
 9. Christian Fittipaldi  22                   1. Scott Dixon       24 points
10. Michael Andretti      20                   2. Bruno Junqueira   11
11. Dario Franchitti      17                   3. Nicholas Minassian 7
12. Bruno Junqueira       11                   4. Tora Takagi        3
15. Alex Zanardi           6
16. Shinji Nakano          6
24. Adrian Fernandez       0

Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd: "It was a great weekend for us, even though we came up a bit short on the finish. The car handled well throughout the race and we definitely were capable of winning. All three of us - Kenny (Brack), Tony (Kanaan) and myself had competitive cars today. It was an exciting race for me and I think for the fans as well. When I was in traffic I tried to conserve fuel, but I led a lot of laps today (84) and I think that cost us some mileage. But we made a good gain in the points, and now we're second heading into Milwaukee."

Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 3rd: "I knew I had a very competitive car. My engineer and all my guys gave me a car to win the race today. When you go to a race like this, you play fuel mileage and strategy and pit stops. But you have to count on some luck as well. We ran strong all day. At the end, I was planning on trimming out and going full power to catch Kenny. If it was not for that last yellow, I would have had a chance. But the long green runs made it a fun race for everyone, and the crowd here was awsome. I think we put on a good show for the fans today."

Alex Zanardi (#66 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 7th: "More than myself, I'm sorry for Honda. I'm very disappointed because obviously today I had the car to do the job, it was really flying. I think we had a problem with the fuel meter and we ran out of fuel. Fortunately it happened on the back straight and I was able to bring it in, but we lost a potential podium. I was waiting for the last pit stop and was planing to attack my way, very aggressively, and make up lot of positions like we had on the other stops, but it did not go our way."

Shinji Nakano (#52 Avex/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 13th, finished 8th: "The car was good today, I just needed more luck. This was an important finish for me here in Japan. Things are getting better and better for us. No podium for us this time, but maybe next time."

Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 3rd, finished 13th (not running - oil line): "The race started out very promising, but it turned into a frustrating day. I was lying third with about seven laps to go when all of a sudden a small fire broke out in the back of the car. Apparently, high temperatures caused an oil line to the gearbox to fail and that ended our day."

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 16th (not running - electrical): "The dash (instruments) went out, the same thing that happened to us at Nazareth. I had no lights or readings, absolutely nothing. As a result we were forced to stop early for fuel and that cost us every time. When I came in the final time the engine started coughing in Turn 3 and I coasted in out of fuel. It's a shame because we should have finished in the top six or seven."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 2nd, finished 17th (not running - exhaust): "I was going into Turn one and the car started sounding bad, so I got out of the throttle and pitted. It looks like a broken (exhaust) header. It's very frustrating because we had an excellent car today. Everything was working well up until that point. It felt good to be running up front and I was hoping to at least get on the podium."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 16th, finished 18th (not running - transmission): "I lost all the gears in the 'box. I downshifted to fifth and everything went away but third. I am disappointed for everyone on Team Kool Green. I had an excellent car today but the results didn't show it. I had a good car all weekend. We didn't get the opportunity to show it in qualifying but we showed it today in the race. I was able to pick people off right and left. We had a great performance going until the gearbox went south."

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 11th, finished 23rd (not running - transmission): "I'm not sure but I think it was something in the gearbox. It's a shame because the car was running really well. In the race I think all we needed to do was get into traffic and we would have gained some ground on the leaders. I was really looking forward to it."