6 May 2013
IndyCar Sao Paulo 2013: Hinch wins Brazilian thriller
The next restart attempt was not without its jostling through turns and 2, but this time everyone just about got away with it, with the exception of Castroneves who was spun out by light contact from Dixon. The #3 was able to get going again without assistance, meaning that another return to caution was not required this time. Bourdais had been battered and bumped but retained the lead ahead of Josef Newgarden who had been one of the main beneficiaries of the restart scrambles, while Hunter-Reay was quickly back up into third place ahead of Simon Pagenaud. The man really on the move in the ensuing green flag laps was Takuma Sato, now on the red-wall tyres that allowed him to pull off a beautiful overtake on Kanaan to move into fifth place.
Bourdais, Newgarden and Pagenaud all soon headed to pit lane - Bourdais blowing his opportunity of a successful race by missing his pit stall and having to come back in again next time by - which left Hunter-Reay back in the front. That was for all of a matter of seconds, it turned out, before Sato blew past him to assume the lead on lap 34. Clearly the AJ Foyt Racing driver wasn't worrying about excessive fuel consumption, while Hunter-Reay was dutifully hitting the conservation numbers.
A lockup into the tyres for Graham Rahal in turn 2 left a piece of the #15's front wing on the track, necessitating another caution on lap 37; Sato did what he could to charge back to pit road, but a sluggish pit stop still meant that he emerged from pit road demoted to 19th place just ahead of Charlie Kimball, while the leaders - Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Franchitti and Dixon - were still looking to stretch the current stint out far enough to facilitate their two-stop strategy meaning that they were in no mood to come onto pit road anytime soon.
Hunter-Reay held on to the lead at the restart on lap 40 despite locking up into the first turn, but all eyes were on a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle between Marco Andretti and Oriol Servià for fifth place. Marco looked to have pulled it off, but Oriol held on and forced the #25 to yield into the next left hander - at which point the track was back under another full course caution. This time it was for a five-car jam in turn 8, which had started when Simon Pagenaud had attempted to go double file around the outside of his compatriot Sebastien Bourdais only for the two to collide against the outside barrier, blocking the track and thereby collecting Castroneves, Kimball and JR Hildebrand who literally had nowhere to go to avoid the blockage.
At the restart on lap 45, it was immediately clear that there was something wrong with the #1 car: it turned out that Hunter-Reay had a slow puncture, which forced him to surrender the lead and come in for a costly unscheduled pit stop which inevitably dropped him out of the top 20. Tony Kanaan briefly inherited the lead, but he was also struggling with a technical issue that gradually reduced him to a crawl, causing him to haemorrhage positions in short order to Marco Andretti, Oriol Servià, Dario Franchitti and EJ Viso.
Now in the fuel window to make it to the end, Servià was the first of the leaders to pit with 25 laps to go, with the others coming in a lap later just as Kanaan's pace declined to the point where a new full course caution was required to retrieve the ailing #11. The KV Racing team subsequently confirmed that the car had run out of fuel after the earlier problems on pit lane with the refuelling rig.
Having pitted only 12 laps earlier, JR Hildebrand assumed the lead at the restart. Five laps off the lead, Graham Rahal nonetheless lined up alongside him on the front row for the green flag, a complication that might have contributed to Marco Andretti losing several positions to Sato, Hinchcliffe and Newgarden in the mêlée. However the racing was short-lived before separate incidents saw James Jakes glance the wall and Justin Wilson bury his own car into the barrier at turn 5 to bring out the seventh caution of the day, a new record for Sao Paulo.
"I was trying to trying to pass Viso and I just locked up the brakes coming into turn five," said Wilson. "The front wing got wedged into the tires and we needed to be pulled out. That ended up putting us two laps down."
"I was behind Marco and I tried to set him up for one of the corners and I just ran wide and hit the wall and had to come in for a new nose," contributed Jakes about his own incident. "That put us in the back again and we moved up a couple of spots from there."
JR Hildebrand was forced onto pit road this time in order to get a new front wing, and that handed the race lead to none other than Long Beach victor Takuma Sato who was ahead of Hinchcliffe, Newgarden, Andretti and Pagenaud with 17 to go at the restart. Significantly, Ryan Hunter-Reay was also threatening to creep back into contention again in sixth place, albeit having run six laps longer than those around him and compromised by having to excessively save fuel to make it to the end.
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