Danica Patrick Finally Wins – A few hours and 4,500 miles (flying “AirTranica”) after becoming the first female to win a major closed-course auto race, Danica Patrick was recalling to a media horde at the Long Beach street race a conversation with her Andretti Green Racing teammate last July at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as being particularly insightful. Now, it’s also relevant.
“I was on the front row for the first time on a road course, which was great, and he said, ‘You know, when you win your first race you’re going to go, ‘I wasn’t doing anything different that day, it just happened.’ I wasn’t doing anything that different (at Twin Ring Motegi), it just happened. He was right.”
Of course, a race victory in the ultra-competitive IndyCar Series is the product of teamwork, skill, a fast car, occasionally luck and strategy. The latter was prominent in the Indy Japan 300, when fuel strategy came into play late in the 200-lap race. Patrick was able to capitalize on other contenders having to pit for a splash and went on to her first victory – in her 50th IndyCar Series race.
Immediately through technology, Patrick’s stunning transformation to being the first female to win a major closed-course auto race transcended the sports realm. A month ago, syndicated TV/radio shows and Internet sites were debating her Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition pictorial (not the photos, mind you). Today, they’re heralding her accomplishment.
“It’s going to be one of those things that’s remembered,” said Patrick, driver of the No. 7 Motorola car. “It’s a first, and firsts are always in history books. I’ve definitely thought about that before, and I’ve always hoped and wanted to be that person. It’s probably one of the only things I ever really thought of myself as a girl, and otherwise I don’t really think about it a lot. But I did think it would be nice to be the first female to win in history.
“Since history goes for a pretty long time, it’s a pretty long time.”
It’s been 31 years since Janet Guthrie broke through to be the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Lyn St. James, who continues to champion women race car drivers, competed in seven 500-Mile Races. Before Patrick came on the scene in 2005, Sarah Fisher was the most recent and successful female driver. Sure it’s seemed long for Patrick, especially after facing ad nausea the “When do you think you’ll win?” question.
“Dreams really do come true,” Patrick said. “You just have to be persistent enough. I am definitely a persistent one and always work very hard and will continue to work very hard.”
Audi Finishes 1-2 at Long Beach – A cool, clear California afternoon helped attract a sizable crowd to the third round of the American Le Mans Series, the Tequila Patron Grand Prix at Long Beach, where the LMP1-class Audi R10 TDIs–despite qualifying behind the lighter Porsche and Acura LMP2 cars–used a couple of late-race cautions and their diesel torque to power to the top two spots.
Patrick Long, who rocketed to the lead from his fourth-place qualifying spot at the start of the race, led until well past halfway, when he pitted to turn his Penske Porsche RS Spyder over to teammate Sasha Maassen. “I got a good break at the start,” Long later understated. Maassen, though, never seemed to find a balance for his stint and was not a factor late in the race.
The Audis drove a quiet, aggressive race, much as they did at the last ALMS race in St. Petersburg, and when the green flag dropped after a third full-course caution with about 10 minutes of the 100-minute race left, Marco Werner’s Audi led. Romain Dumas in a Penske Porsche was second, the meat in an Audi sandwich as Emanuelle Pirro in the second Audi pressured the Porsche. In less than one lap, Pirro passed the Porsche, and that’s how it remained until the checkered flag.
Werner, who co-drove with Lucas Luhr, went to the flag unchallenged, with Pirro–teamed with Frank Biela–fighting off the LMP2 cars, especially a late-race charge by David Brabham who managed to get by Dumas with a few minutes left. Brabham put his Highcroft Acura ARX-01b into third overall, and a won the LMP2 class. Brabham and teammate Scott Sharp had started third.
GT1 was the usual two-car battle between the factory Chevrolet Corvettes, with Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen taking the class win. A far better race was between a Tafel Ferrari and Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 in GT2, with the Tafel Ferrari F430 of Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher taking the class win, just as they did in St. Petersburg. The Tafel Ferrari changed only two tires on its pit stop, a gamble that paid off.
In setting the 28-car grid, qualifying clearly favored the light-on-their-feet LMP2 cars, with the Penske Porsche of Timo Bernhard and Dumas taking the pole at 99.324 mph, a track record, just ahead of the Acura ARX-01b of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. The Audis qualified sixth and seventh after a flock of Porsches and Acuras, with the fastest Audi being the Biela-Pirro car at 98.722 mph.
Winning the GT1 pole, good for 12th overall starting spot, was the Corvette of O’Connell and Magnussen, with a speed of 91.940 mph. The fastest GT2 qualifier was the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet at 88.888 mph.
Next up for the ALMS: The Miller Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park in two weeks.
Ferrari Play Down New Nose Design – Ferrari have played down the significance of their ‘hole in the nose’ design, insisting other aerodynamic developments on their car are just as important in helping the speed of the F2008.
The Maranello-based team were the centre of attention during testing at Barcelona in Spain last week when they ran the much-rumored nose hole feature for the first time.
And although there had been talk that the benefit of the concept could be large, Ferrari’s chief designer Nicholas Tombazis insists the impact is not that great.
“It is not something revolutionary that will make us go two seconds quicker,” Tombazis told Gazzetta dello Sport. “More simply, it’s an aerodynamic development, like others that are perhaps less evident but maybe even more important.”
Tombazis explained that the introduction of the hole was delayed until the start of the European season because of the need to pass a new crash test, and so Ferrari could ensure they had enough parts for the races.
“It’s an idea we’ve been working on for some time, but it wasn’t one of the fundamental points of the F2008 project as people may think. In fact the car has raced, and well, without it too.”
Speaking about the benefits of the design, Tombazis said: “It allows you to better control the airflow on the front wing, with benefits on other components behind, like the diffuser and the rear wing.
“The driver feels an increase of aerodynamic load, so he can go quicker in the curves. But this is also the result of other things we introduced in the Montmelo test and that are not visible.”