IndyCar » 17 July 2000
Stalker Andretti claims sixth Toronto victory.
Already out was Takuya Kurosawa who had pitted after just ten laps with a mechanical failure and he would be joined on the sidelines by Mark Blundell who suddenly lost power on the 19th lap.
Up at the front it was clear that Da Matta was trying to conserve fuel as the lapped car of Luiz Garcia was able to easily keep pace with him. Despite this reduction in pace however and the tyres on the lead car going off causing several lurid moments, the chasing trio could not get on terms and were simply biding their time before the first round of pit-stops.
The status quo at the front was broken by fifth placed Brack on lap 35 who brought his Team Rahal Reynard along pit road for fuel and tyres. As he did this, Marques made an ill advised lunge down the inside of Fontana at Turn Eight which failed to come off. Both cars were pitched into the tyres and only local yellows were displayed although there was more to come at the Turn One where Moreno was tapped by an over enthusiastic Tagliani who had tried to usurp the championship leader from his 13th place. In doing this, Tagliani was passed by his team-mate as Moreno was left to watch the oncoming traffic miss him by inches before spinning around and continuing.
By this time a full course caution was out and the rest of the leaders headed into the pits where there was yet more drama. Jourdain Jr had already abandoned his Lola when the two Newman-Haas Lola's rumbled down the pitlane. Both Andretti's and Fittipaldi's crew did a masterful job leaving both drivers almost neck and neck as they tried to return to the track. Between them was De Ferran who was still making his way to his pit-box. The Team Penske driver found himself in a rather unfortunate situation with Andretti on the inside lane blocking access to his box, and Fittipaldi glued to his gearbox trying to get ahead of his team-mate. Left with no other option De Ferran braked as late as he could to avoid Andretti and swung into his box at the last possible moment. Fittipaldi was too close to react and thumped the rear of the Marlboro car, tearing his nosecone off in the process. Sadly for Christian, the mountings had also come adrift and there was no way of attaching a replacement nose leaving another disgruntled spectator.
A little further down the pit-lane Herta had no choice but to abandon his mount when methanol spilt onto the engine causing a brief conflagration. No-one was singed and the flames were soon doused although Herta's day was over.
This sudden decimation of the field left only 17 cars running as the green flag fell on lap 39. Da Matta still led after an incident free stop although Andretti had now emerged as his closest challenger after his swift but eventful stop. Castroneves was third ahead of Fernandez, Servia, Brack and Tracy although the Canadian driver continued his heroic progress by neatly out-braking Brack into the first turn after the re-start. Behind him there was action as fellow Canadian Carpentier did exactly the same to Gugelmin for twelfth a lap later.
The race seemed to settle down once again after the second burst of action with Da Matta and Andretti hotly disputing the lead for lap after lap but with the PPI driver always remaining on top. Castroneves had dropped away from the lead two back into the clutches of Fernandez and Servia, the Spaniard having another impressive outing for PPI and looking desperately to find a way past the Mexican. A seemingly perfect opportunity came on lap 44 when Servia tucked his Reynard tight against the inside wall as the pair thundered along the back straight. Fernandez left just enough room for the Spaniard to squeeze ahead by the time they reached Turn Three although the Mexican was able to stay round the outside as the pair almost banged wheels. Adrian was able to stay on the inside for the cut back at Turn Four and despite being off line, Servia was still marginally ahead as they entered Turn Five. The track had been gathering marbles and dust off-line since the start of the race and as Servia tried to take the corner from his wide position, the rear of his car almost lazily swung around and he was helpless to avoid making contact with the tyre barrier. After much fumbling around, reverse was selected and he was on his way once again, albeit three laps down on the leaders.
As the race reached the half way point, Da Matta and Andretti consolidated their lead over Castroneves at five seconds although it was clear that the Penske driver was now beginning to hold up the following bunch, now led by Fernandez and Tracy. Sure enough on lap 48 Helio brought the Marlboro backed car into the pits to retire, the Brazilian having to watch another potential major points haul disappear. At about the same time, Gugelmin stopped on the circuit with an electrical failure and Nakano pulled into the pits with a similar problem.
Almost incredibly, there were only 13 cars left running as the race entered its second half, however there was still plenty of excitement on the track as the top eleven cars all began to close up as once again Da Matta focused on his consumption figures rather than blistering pace. Fernandez quickly dealt with the five second gap to Andretti once Castroneves was removed from the scene while the inspired Tracy did his best to haul Brack, De Ferran, Tagliani, Vasser, Papis, Carpentier and Moreno up to the leaders. Behind the points leader Garcia circulated alone, one lap behind while Servia had rejoined the action amongst the leaders and was keeping pace with his team-mate whilst trying to stay out of the way.
As in the first stint, Da Matta's tyres went off about ten laps before he was due to pit which allowed Andretti to really pile the pressure on the young Brazilian. However, racing with a maturity well beyond his years, Da Matta could not be shaken by the wily veteran despite several more hairy moments exiting the final few corners.
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