4 September 2011
Power avoids the traps at Baltimore
There were all sorts of dangers out on the streets of Baltimore waiting to claim Will Power, but he avoided all of them and put in stunning laps at the crucial moment to claim a vital win.
For race fans who found Toronto too much of a demolition derby, Sonoma too much of a snooze and street courses in general lacking overtaking moves, the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on the 2-mile, 12-turn temporary street course around Camden Yards might have just hit the Goldilocks spot.
Fans had been fearing a crashfest to put that of Toronto in the shade, but impressively the entire field made it through the first corner without incident, the first race of the multi-event weekend to achieve that feat.
Instead, attention was locked on an immediate battle for the lead as Graham Rahal headed into the corner convinced that polesitter Will Power had chosen wrong when he had selected to start on the inside line. Rahal was sure he could sweep around the outside and stay off the tyre barrier, and he did just that - while behind him, Dario Franchitti followed his line to nip in front of Ryan Briscoe for third place.
But Power had a surprise in store for Rahal, and on the long run down to the one-eighty hairpin of turn three he breezed down the inside of Rahal to reclaim the lead in a smooth textbook move for which Rahal had no answer. Behind them, Franchitti gave Briscoe no such opportunity and maintained the place he had made up at the start.
Power and Rahal broke away in front, with Franchitti and Briscoe falling off but well ahead of Sebastien Bourdais (who soon retired from the race with electrical problems affecting his gears) and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Noticeably losing ground was Mike Conway, who was holding up a train of cars behind him from early on and finally succumbed to Scott Dixon, Simona de Silvestro, James Jakes and Vitor Meira within a few corners as he clearly battled a big problem with the #27's handling as it suffered from excessive bottoming out.
Having just dispatched Conway, Dixon then dived into the pits on lap 12 as the window opened to come in and make it to the end of the race on only one more pit stop; Tony Kanaan joined him, having little to lose after starting from the back of the grid alongside Castroneves since both of them had needed to to use back-up cars following their frightening airborne warm-up accident.
Others who had the same idea (and who were also getting rid of the slower hard compound black wall tyres in the initial short stint) were Oriol Servia and Marco Andretti who were in a couple of laps later, and Danica Patrick and Martin Plowman among those in on lap 15.
The leaders waited a while longer to come in, but once Will Power and Graham Rahal pitted on lap 21 everyone had to react pretty smartly to stave off the risk of a caution period closing up the field before they had the chance follow suit. Power got a perfect stop, but Rahal's crew had problems with a sticking fuel hose which cost them vital time and left him 4s off the lead once the pit stops had cycled through.
However, not all was lost: Power wasn't looking nearly so comfortable on this set of tyres and was having to push so hard that he overshot the chicane on the start/finish straight. As he gained several seconds by this, he was ordered to slow up and restore the status quo - and that gave Rahal the opportunity to close right back up onto the rear of the #12.
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