Dillon Battistini's return to the Firestone Indy Lights Series ended with a trip to the wall, and a local hospital, following a heavy crash that ensured that the Kansas Lottery 100 finished under caution, but the Briton thankfully escaped any serious injury.
The most successful driver, in terms of race wins, in his debut Lights season last year, Battistini was called up by Genoa Racing to partner rookie Richard Philippe in the first oval event of the 2009 campaign, and had risen to sixth place when contact with fellow Briton Pippa Mann sent both cars into retirement. Battistini was taken initially to the IRL medical centre, before being transported to Kansas University Medical Centre for precautionary scans. Despite the impact, however, he was diagnosed with severe bruising, but otherwise he was given a clean bill of health, finally being discharged on Monday.
The #63 Genoa entry suffered with a lack of straight line speed all weekend, leaving Battistini down in 14th position after qualifying before the team's Saturday evening stripdown discovered that the airbox was not sealing properly on the engine. With the problem addressed, the former Asian F3 champion charged through the field, and was up into sixth spot before the lap 58 contact put him into the wall at turn four.
“It was such a shame to end the race this way," Battistini admitted, "Starting so far back on an oval felt very strange and, with 14 rookies in the field, I was being very cautious as I picked my way through the pack.
"As to what actually happened with Pippa, I am not sure. She was just behind me going into turn three and then, suddenly, we were heading for the wall. It is disappointing after the team had been working hard to improve the car and I was heading for a great result."
Mann's version of events appeared to suggest that her rival was already having an accident without her.
“My car seemed okay when I was running by myself, but I was suffering a lot in traffic and just kept hanging on and doing my best," she reported, "Unfortunately, Dillon spun in front of me, leaving me nowhere to go. We were so close when he started to spin that I just couldn't avoid the contact. It's just a terrible way to end the race, but I'm glad that nothing serious happened to him.”
Crashing is not something that Battistini was acquainted with after his successful 2008 campaign, but he acknowledged that every IndyCar driver has suffered a similar incident at some point in their career, and refused to let the incident affect his plans for the rest of the year.
"I knew I had an appointment with the wall at some point, and I guess I will be sore for a few day, but we are keeping focused on putting our IndyCar programme into place,” he concluded.