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De Ferran breaks through

Race in two: Gil de Ferran and Kenny Brack battle for the lead of the Rockingham 500.

England plays host to a Champcar thriller

24 Sep 2001

DEFENDING CART champion Gil de Ferran slipped past current points leader Kenny Brack of heading into the third turn of the final lap of the inaugural Rockingham 500 on Saturday and held on for victory as the Champcars made their first visit to the UK since the late 1970s.

De Ferran, driving a Team Penske Reynard-Honda, led 83 of the first 138 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, but lost the lead on the 139th and penultimate lap when Brack eased by on the outside as the Brazilian was held up in traffic.

Brack, driving a Team Rahal Lola-Cosworth, took the white flag with the lead and appeared to be in position for his series-leading fifth victory of the season until de Ferran got a run on him heading into the third turn of the final lap.

The two championship frontrunners went side-by-side through the final two turns before de Ferran nosed ahead of Brack coming onto the front straight and held on for a 0.634 sec victory and the team's first FedEx Championship Series oval triumph since de Ferran recorded the team's 100th Champ Car win at Nazareth last year.

De Ferran's first victory of the season also made him the 11th different winner of 2001, tying a record established last year.

"It was a very exciting race. It was a good race, and I hope everybody enjoyed it," said De Ferran. "For those who don't know, I have some strong attachments to this country. My wife is British, and my career took off here. It's really special for me." Despite being edged out on the race track, Brack maintained the FedEx Championship Series championship lead with 147 points, followed by de Ferran with 141.

"It went down to traffic at the end," the Swede recounted. "That's how we were able to get by him, and that's how he was able to get by me. I have no complaints. It was a tough race, it was an exciting race, and that's the way I think oval racing should be." Michael Andretti (Team Motorola Reynard-Honda) stands third with 125 points following a fifth-place finish Saturday, while de Ferran's teammate Helio Castroneves (Honda/Reynard), finished fourth and is fourth in the championship with 123 points.

Following the event, Castroneves was penalized one finishing position for passing Cristiano da Matta (Newman/Haas Racing Lola-Toyota) during a full-course caution. The incident occurred beyond the blend-out line as the two drivers exited the pits at the conclusion of the 100th lap.

Following a post-race review of videotape and timing and scoring documents by CART stewards, it was determined that da Matta and Castroneves would switch finishing positions, with da Matta being awarded third place for his first podium result since finishing second at Long Beach in Round two.

The race, which began roughly four hours after its originally scheduled 12.30 pm green flag, was shortened from its originally scheduled 210-lap distance due to concerns over adequate daylight and impending bad weather.

Practice for the event was also truncated because of weather concerns.

* Seriously injured Champcar star Alex Zanardi underwent a successful final surgery last Friday to inspect and clean his injuries. CART reports he continues to progress satisfactorily, and remains in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit of Klinikum Berlin-Marzahn (hospital).

Zanardi had both his legs amputated after a horrific crash in Germany on September 14 during the running of the American Memorial 500.

Zanardi was made aware of his condition last Friday. A CART media statement said he seemed to be accepting the news "as well as could be expected, taking the view that he will still be able to spend time with his wife, Daniela, and son, Niccolo".

* Australia's Ryan Briscoe has clinched the Italian Formula Renault Championship after winning the eighth round of the series at the Binetto circuit in southern Italy.

The win earned Briscoe 31 points to take his season tally to an unbeatable 201 points with one round remaining.

The 20-year-old is now set to advance to Formula Three next year as part of his contract with Toyota's junior development squad.

1 Gil de Ferran (Honda/Reynard) 1hr20.59.050
2 K Brack (Ford-Cosworth/Lola) +0.634
3 C da Matta (Toyota/Lola) +14.663
4 H Castroneves (Honda/Reynard) +6.335*
5 M Andretti (Honda/Reynard) +17.056
6 P Tracy (Honda/Reynard) +18.919
7 J Vasser (Toyota/Reynard) +19.060
8 T Kanaan (Honda/Reynard) +19.740
9 D Franchitti (Honda/Reynard) +20.281
10 O Servia (Ford-Cosworth/Lola) +26.431 DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Brack (SWE) 147
2 De Ferran (BRA) 141
3 Andretti (USA) 125
4 Castroneves (BRA) 123
5 Da Matta (BRA) 92
6 Franchitti (SCO) 89
7 S Dixon (NZ) 86
8 Carpentier (CAN) 83
9 Kanaan (BRA) 77
1 Honda 278
2 Toyota 240
3 Ford-Cosworth 236 Next round:

Grand Prix of Houston, Texas - October 7 *Castroneves penalised one position for pitlane exit infringement

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