Despite feeling ill all weekend, Helio Castroneves drove magnificently to score his second Champ Car victory which was almost as satisfying as his first.

If you had seen Helio Castroneves on Friday afternoon you would have thought that it would be impossible for him to complete even half a race distance, never mid 83 gruelling laps around the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. Pale and drawn, Helio was actually hooked up to an IV drip by the CART medical team such was his state of exhaustion after first practice.

Infact he looked much the same as he knelt on the ground on the start/finish line on Sunday afternoon after pummelling the opposition, waiting for the onslaught of the TV cameras. In other words, he was completely spent.

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Away from the green flag it was pole position holder Gil De Ferran who led the field closely followed by Castroneves as the two Team Penske cars quickly got into their stride. Kenny Brack took third place from Dario Franchitti off the start line but Franchitti was able to muscle back into third after just five laps.

Franchitti was clearly the best of the non Penske's and proceeded to leave Brack and the closely following bunch in his wake. However the Scotsman's awful luck continued to haunt him and before the quarter distance mark he was heading to the pits for the first of several stops in an attempt to cure an electrical problem.

The two Team Penske cars continued to pull away at the front by almost a second a lap with Castroneves obediently following his team-mate, for now. Brack was holding down third with Max Papis, Christian Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti, Cristiano Da Matta and Juan Montoya all virtually glued to his rear wing.

However Montoya's charge was destined not to last as the evil handling Target/Chip Ganassi Lola got the better of the Colombian on two occasions, dropping Montoya to the back of the field.

The race was not memorable for a great amount of overtaking as the increased aerodynamics on the Champ Car chassis made it very difficult to get a tow from the driver ahead.

De Ferran led until the first round of pit-stops when Castroneves came into his own. The young Brazilian chose to pit two laps later than his slightly older countryman, a decision which paid dividends after some scorching laps just prior to his stop put him out nary five seconds ahead of De Ferran after his stop.

Castroneves then increased his lead at a phenomenal rate, ruthlessly cutting past any slower traffic that he encountered while De Ferran was rather more circumspect. The result of this was that by the second stops approached, Helio was over 20 seconds ahead of his team-mate and looking unstoppable.

The action behind the two Team Penske Reynard-Honda's was close, if a little static with Brack, Papis and Fittipaldi disputing third, fourth and fifth for much of the race. Fittipaldi found a way past Papis in the early going but was powerless to do anything about Brack until the final round of stops when both he and Papis were able to fight past the Swede.

The trio remained close until the end of the race thanks to a late race caution, one of only two in the entire event, which bunched the field together. The caution, for an accident involving Paul Tracy, Cristiano Da Matta and Tony Kanaan, erased Castroneves' lead which had grown to more than 20 seconds at one point in the race meaning that his final winning margin was a wholly unrepresentative four seconds.

As for the man who should have been third, the electrical problem developed into a gear shifting problem which saw Franchitti stranded in the middle of the pit-lane for almost an entire lap. Despite being two laps down, Dario's Team KOOL Green crew were mindful of the high rate of attrition in the previous three races and he stayed on the track just incase he found himself in a points paying position later on in the race. However that moment never came, as going into the Keyhole for the 52nd time, Dario clipped the right rear tyre of Jimmy Vasser pitching both cars into retirement.

Also out of the race by that point was Montoya who was fighting for last place when his car simply ran out of fuel after 43 laps. The disgusted Colombian put a brave face on the situation and admitted to making several minor errors with his difficult machine even though he realises that a second Fed-Ex title is now almost out of reach.

Sixth place went to Adrian Fernandez who moved up steadily through the field by virtue of yet more great fuel mileage and pit-work from his Patrick crew. The Mexican driver was part of a race long dice for the lower places in the top ten with the likes of Michael Andretti, Patrick Carpentier, TaglianI, Tracy and Da Matta that kept the enthusiastic Lexington crowd entertained for much of the races duration.

Carpentier came home seventh after being passed by the Mexican in a daring move at Turn Four just after half distance. Andretti had his points lead cut from 22 to 19 by De Ferran after an unspectacular run in the difficult Lola-Ford to eighth place.

For much of the race Andretti had his mirrors full of Cristiano Da Matta until the Brazilian lost out to Tracy and Tagliani on the final re-start. It was as Tagliani attempted to wrest ninth place away from Tracy on lap 69 the accident occurred.

The young Player's Forsythe driver had a great run on his countryman coming down the back straight and chose to make a move around the outside under braking for the infamous fourth turn. Tagliani got a wheel ahead of Tracy as they reached the braking area but instead of holding the line around the outside he cut across the front of the Team KOOL Green car which caused Tracy to spin. Da Matta, with nowhere to go was forced into the gravel where he would remain while Tracy was hit squarely by the impressive Tony Kanaan who had risen from 19th to eleventh and was on course for his first points since Milwaukee. Tracy and Da Matta were out on the spot while Kanaan pitted for a new nose and dropped out of the points. Tagliani continued unscathed and went on to finish ninth.

Oriol Servia was a quiet tenth, a lap down on the leaders but was still the best placed Toyota runner on a track where Honda and Ford have something of an advantage in the engine department. Castroneves' win was the 50th for the Japanese company since they burst onto the scene in the early 1990's.

Erstwhile Championship leader Roberto Moreno dropped to third in the points table after he could only manage eleventh at the flag. 'Pupo' was in line for a strong finish until he collided with Mauricio Gugelmin early in the race and then suffered some problems in the pits.

Memo Gidley continued his remarkable run in the Della Penna Reynard-Toyota by taking the final point for twelfth place but he was only five seconds ahead of a charging Kanaan at the end. Gidley has now scored in all three appearances he has made for the Della Penna team this season, fully justifying the tam-owners faith in him.

The day belonged to Castroneves however who did his now traditional leap onto the spectator fence at the end of the race to the delight of his many followers. "I had no real problems at all," said Helio after the race. "Late in the race, it was a question of keeping it together, taking care of the re-starts and bringing the car home."

De Ferran meanwhile knew that Castroneves was in a class of his own but was still pleased with his newly won second place in the championship. "It's absolutely a good day for the whole team. I didn't have quite enough for Helio today, but second is a good result for us."

The main question is now, who can stop the Penske's when the CART circus makes its annual visit to the daunting Road America circuit next Sunday. If not then Michael Andretti could have a major headache on his hands in the closing rounds of this year's fascinating series.