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Allmendinger wins RA as Legge survives major crash

24 September 2006

AJ Allmendinger emerged victorious on Champ Car's return to Road America to keep his faint title hopes alive, but the main talking point was a terrible accident for Briton Katherine Legge, from which she was lucky to emerge unscathed.

Allmendinger's win on the spectacular four-mile Elkhart Lake road course may have seemed unlikely following Sebastien Bourdais' early race domination, but a third place finish for the Frenchman means he needs just a handful of points over the final two races to secure a historic third straight championship.

While the first Champ Car race at Road America since 2004 allowed the series' 750hp machines to really stretch their legs on one of the country's finest natural road courses, the fearsome Wisconsin track also tested the series' Lola chassis to their extremes, after a horrific looking crash for rookie driver Legge left many fearing for her life.

Incredibly, Legge was able to walk into the waiting ambulance after the Champ Car safety team extracted her from the mangled remains of her PKV Racing Lola and later conduct a TV interview in front of a stunned, but relieved, crowd.

Legge's crash, which occurred on lap 47 of 51, brought out the red flag as the emergency services rushed into action and the crimson banner stayed out for nearly three-quarters of an hour as the circuit staff repaired the fencing ripped down by Legge's wildly flipping car.

While many thought that Champ Car would call the race four laps short of the intended distance, the series chose to push on for a restart, the usual one-hour 45-minute time limit obviously not applying on this occasion. Nearly one hour after the completion of lap 46, Allmendinger led the field back out onto the track for what would be a two-lap sprint to the finish.

While the decision to ensure a green flag finish will have proved tremendously popular with the fans in attendance, Allmendinger could have been forgiven for feeling slightly aggrieved at having his hard-earned advantage over second place runner Bruno Junqueira erased. Not only that, but Bourdais, running third, was now within spitting distance of the Forsythe Racing driver, with Newman-Haas team-mate Junqueira the only driver in between.

When the green flag waved Junqueira tried using all his remaining 'push to pass' boost to try and draw alongside Allmendinger and take the lead, but AJ was able to hold firm and hang on to take the chequered flag six-tenths of a second to the good for his fifth win of the season.

Bourdais was happy to sit behind Junqueira and take third position, even if his early race pace suggested that his #1 McDonald's Lola was the fastest car in the field. Although the Frenchman will undoubtedly be disappointed at missing out on the win, especially when considering how he dominated the first part of the race prior to the final round of scheduled pit-stops, he will be able to console himself with the knowledge that he will almost certainly wrap up the title at Surfers Paradise next month.

Just off the podium in fourth place was Oriol Servia who, like the rest of the PKV Racing team, were thanking their lucky stars that Legge was unhurt following her crash, which seemed to be caused when part of her rear wing broke, pitching the car into the wall and then a series of ugly barrel-rolls.

Behind Servia, Justin Wilson claimed fifth with polesitter Dan Clarke rounding out the top six as the best-placed rookie contender. Charles Zwolsman, the other qualifying sensation, took seventh place ahead of Andrew Ranger, the impressive Jan Heylen and an off-colour Paul Tracy, who rounded out the top ten having been rescued from the Canada Corner gravel trap.

Just two of the 17 starters failed to finish, with Tonis Kasemets joining Legge on the sidelines. Series debutant Juan Caceres, meanwhile, had a steady run to 15th place in Dale Coyne's second Lola.


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