4 June 2012
Ganassi 1-2 in shortened Belle Isle event
Scott Dixon dominated the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix despite a two hour red flag for a crumbling track that ended up helping boost Dario Franchitti to second.
With its cramped street course layout, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was hardly likely to be a festival of overtaking any more than Monaco is for F1. Starting from pole position alongside Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon therefore always had the whip hand and looked like the man to beat.
No man could: but the track itself gave it a good try of beating all the drivers when it started to disintegrate mid-race, resulting in a two hour red flag for new concrete patches to be laid down before racing could resume - with Dario Franchitti emerging as the unlikely principal beneficiary of the ensuing chaos.
It hadn't exactly been the cleanest start to the race in the first place. Alex Tagliani was absent from his hard won fourth place in the line-up with problems with his Honda engine's electronic control unit and had to duck into pit lane before the green flag, and while the top three - Dixon, Power and Pagenaud - quickly went line astern, the rest of the field was a muddle. Dario Franchitti was able to make up a couple of positions in the scramble, but Justin Wilson ended up pushed out wide in the same move and tapped the wall with his right rear wheel. That damaged his car's wishbone suspension, leaving the last IndyCar winner at Detroit in 2008 back in pit lane for lengthy repairs and firmly out of contention.
"Not a great day," admitted Wilson. "We brushed the wall on lap one, bent the wishbone, and I'm really disappointed with that. That ended our day pretty much. The guys worked hard trying to give us a good car and we got caught up. We fixed it, went back out, tried to learn a couple of things."
The top three were soon cruising away with it, while fourth-placed man EJ Viso was struggling on the same set of scuffed tyres that he'd used in qualifying and as a result getting very loose, almost losing it completely at one stage before gathering the car up again. Despite his problems, the dozen cars behind him - led by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe - started to get frustrated as they were bottled up behind him in a long train.
Briscoe tried to make the best of it by attempting a pass on Hunter-Reay only to find himself blocked by a long slow move out to the wall by the Andretti Autosport car; in the process, Briscoe's front wing touched the back of Hunter-Reay's car and sustained some damage which ultimately contributed to him losing several positions over the ensuing laps. Hunter-Reay himself was given a "don't do that again" warning from race control, but no actual penalty was handed down on this occasion as race director Beaux Barfield continued to gradually redefine the understanding of blocking moves in the series in 2012.
While Tagliani had rejoined and was quickly moving up the field again, and even Wilson finally came back out for some practice albeit 23 laps off the lead, a few other cars suffered mechanical problems and exited the race for good: first up was Rubens Barrichello, whose gambit of switching cars overnight came to nought when the engine itself started to misfire and forced him to park it in pit lane.
"I'll tell you, this weekend has been very bad. I'm so sorry for the guys, they have been trying so hard to change my car overnight," he said. "For some reason my chassis wasn't doing very well this morning it was better in the race. I could see my race picked up a lot but then the engine started to misfire. We still tried on the pit lane to do something but it was all over, unfortunate."
Sebastien Bourdais also lost power and had to retire - his abrupt slowing catching out Dario Franchitti immediately behind him, with the #10 Ganassi clipping the edge of its front wing on the rear wheel guards of the Dragon. And shortly afterwards, James Jakes took to the runoff area in turn 8 with brake problems.
Tagged as: James Hinchcliffe , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Dario Franchitti , Ryan Briscoe , Scott Dixon , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud , Oriol Servia , Detroit , tony kanaan , Belle Isle
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