Dan Wheldon wins the Indianapolis 500
Starting from the pole for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, Alex Tagliani kept in touch with the leaders during the first half of the 200-lap race before encountering high engine oil temperature problems. The Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver had an excellent race start, leading 20 of the first 34 laps, a stint he shared with Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon.
During a pit stop at mid-point, the team opened an inlet to let air inside the engine compartment in order for it to cool it down. This operation produced downforce on the car, slowing it down considerably and Tagliani started to slip down in the charts. Then on lap 145, Tagliani went high into corner four and lost it, slamming into the wall and ending his hope of a decent finish. For the official spokesperson of the 2011 ICAR Grand Prix of Mirabel, which will be held June 3-5, it was the end of a dream. Tagliani was classified 28th overall.
“The Bowers & Wilkins 77 car was fairly competitive early in the race,” said Tagliani, who led 20 of the first 34 laps. “I can’t thank enough my team. They did a fantastic job all month long. We had a really good, balanced car early on. It was nice to drive it. Then all of the sudden, it became very loose. I couldn’t really get it back on track, you know, with all the tools I had in the car. So we were struggling with a very nervous car. In one of our pit stops we thought we fixed it, but we didn’t.
“It’s a shame, because early on the car was so good I thought we had a shot at it all race long. But we kind of lost the car at some point; very curious. When the car became loose, I don’t think we were going to become a threat. It was a shame, because early on I think we had something for them. It’s something we’re going to have to look at. I don’t know why exactly the car became loose.”
The end of the 500-mile race was very exciting as the lead changed several times, going to Danica Patrick first, and then Belgium Bertrand Baguette, who took over until he pitted with three laps to go. Rookie J.R. Hildebrand from Sausalito, California took the lead but he hit the wall in turn four of the last lap, giving Dan Wheldon an unanticipated second win at the Indy 500, his first since 2005. Even though he crashed into the wall, Hildebrand’s car slid all the way to the finish line to take second place. For the fourth consecutive year, a Panther Racing driver finished second at Indy, the last two times Wheldon was at the wheel of their car. American Graham Rahal, who started 29th, finished third ahead of Tony Kanaan who started 22nd on the grid. Newman-Haas driver Oriol Servia from Spain finished sixth ahead of Dixon. Will Power was the best Penske driver at the finish line, closing out his race in 14th place, one lap down from the winner.
Among the other Canadians entered, Paul Tracy finished 25th after colliding with the wall on lap 22 and falling behind 25 laps for repair. Rookie James Hinchcliffe, 13th on the grid, also had an encounter with wall at the halfway mark and retired 29th overall behind Tagliani.
Tagliani to meet the press on June 1st
Upon his return to Québec on Wednesday, June 1, Tagliani will meet the media at a press conference at Circuit Mirabel. On Friday, he will be settling into driver mode and getting ready to compete in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at the Grand Prix of Mirabel, round 2 of their 2011 schedule. Tagliani has been quite successful in the series with a win in Edmonton in 2008 and two poles in 2009, his first one in Trois-Rivières, and the other in Montréal on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
The organizers of the Grand Prix ICAR of Mirabel will open their doors and welcome everyone to discover the track and its facilities, as well as enjoy a regular day of racing competition and a chance to meet their favourite drivers in the paddock.
Besides the NASCAR race, five other championships series will compete in the support race program of the Grand Prix ICAR. Fans can follow all the championship series that are showcased in the fourth running of the Grand Prix ICAR of Mirabel by logging on to their websites: the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (http://hometracks.nascar.com/series/canadian_tire_series) – the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) (www.touringcar.ca) – the Porsche IMSA GT3 Cup Canada Challenge (www.imsaracing.net) – the Canadian Super Production Challenge Series (SPC) (www.superproductionchallenge.com) – the Québec-based GT Performance Racing Series (www.fsaq.qc.ca) – and the Cup Lites Series (www.circuiticar.com).
Tickets for the fourth running of the Grand Prix ICAR of Mirabel presented by Continental Tire, which will be held from Friday June 3 to Sunday June 5, 2011, are currently available online at www.circuiticar.com or by phone from Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm at 514-955-4227. To learn more about the different corporate packages available or to make reservations, contact Shelley Robson at 514-955-4227, extension 106.
Circuit ICAR is located at Mirabel Airport. From Autoroute 15, take exit 35 to Autoroute 50 until exit 288 indicating Boulevard Henri-Fabre. Follow the ICAR signs to the track (J7N 0A6).
source: Max D’Orsonnens, photo: IndyCar/Jim Haines