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2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500

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The 2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500 was a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) motor race held on 14 September 2002 at the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, Northamptonshire, England in front of an estimated crowd of 38,000 people. It was the 15th round of the 2002 CART season, the second annual edition of the Rockingham 500, and the only race of the year to be held in Europe. The 211-lap race was won by Team Green driver Dario Franchitti who started from fifth position. Cristiano da Matta finished second for Newman/Haas Racing, and Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier came in third.

United Kingdom 2002 Rockingham
Race details
Race 15 of 19 in the 2002 CART season
Rockingham Motor Speedway.svg
Rockingham Motor Speedway Oval Course
Date14 September, 2002
Official name2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500
LocationRockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Northamptonshire, England
CoursePermanent racing facility
1.479 mi / 2.380 km
Distance211 laps
312.069 mi / 502.18 km
WeatherCloudy, Cool
Pole position
DriverKenny Bräck (Chip Ganassi Racing)
Time24.908
Fastest lap
DriverJimmy Vasser (Team Rahal)
Time25.217 (on lap 210 of 211)
Podium
FirstDario Franchitti (Team Green)
SecondCristiano da Matta (Newman/Haas Racing)
ThirdPatrick Carpentier (Forysthe Racing)

Kenny Bräck won the pole position and maintained his advantage heading into the first lap. He led for a total of 134 laps, more than any other competitor. Franchitti employed a strategy that enabled him to drive in clean air while other drivers made pit stops. Bräck reclaimed the lead for the lap-163 restart, but lost it six laps later when a crew member dropped a wheel nut, which cost him time. Franchitti took the lead and held it for the remainder of the event to clinch his victory of the season, his first on an oval track, and the tenth (and last) of his CART career. There were five cautions and nine lead changes during the course of the race.

The result meant da Matta was 58 points ahead of Bruno Junqueira in the Drivers' Championship. Franchitti maintained third place but was closer to Junqueira, with Carpentier and Christian Fittipaldi rounding out the top five. Toyota extended their advantage over Honda in the Manufacturers' Championship while Ford Cosworth remained in third, with four races left in the season. The race attracted 60 million worldwide television viewers. It was the final United Kingdom CART race to be held at Rockingham Motor Speedway as it moved to Brands Hatch, Kent in 2003.

ReportEdit

BackgroundEdit

 
Rockingham Motor Speedway, where the race was held.

The Sure for Men Rockingham 500 was confirmed as part of CART's 2002 schedule in November 2001.[1] It was the 15th of 19 scheduled races by CART, and was held on 14 September at the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, Northamptonshire, England.[2] It was the second consecutive year the race was held at Rockingham[2] and the only event of 2002 to be held in Europe.[3] It was expected that the race would be attended by 52,000 people, the track's maximum capacity.[4] The track is a four-turn 1.479-mile (2.380 km) oval that has banking of up to 7.9 degrees.[5] Before the race, Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta led the Drivers' Championship with 175 points, ahead of Bruno Junqueira in second, and Dario Franchitti in third. Patrick Carpentier was fourth on 101 points, and Christian Fittipaldi was a further three points behind in fifth.[2] Toyota led the Manufacturers' Championship with 248 points, Honda were second on 214 points, and Ford Cosworth were in third on 178.[6]

Following the cancellation of the German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz due to financial difficulties, it was announced that the race at Rockingham was going ahead as scheduled. David Grace, the track's chief executive, invited German CART fans to attend the Rockingham 500.[7] Franchitti, considered by the media to be the pre-race favourite, said a victory at Rockingham would be the highlight of his season and that he wanted to entertain the spectators.[3] Having finished second in the previous year's race, Kenny Bräck stated his belief he could continue his good run of results in Europe and wanted competitive racing. Da Matta said his team had made a large number of adjustments to his car's setup on ovals and hoped his vehicle would be better than it was in Motegi. He spoke of his belief the Rockingham 500 was important and wanted to secure a top-three finishing position. Carpentier said although he was disappointed with his 2001 result at the track, he was convinced he could improve his performance.[2]

 
Darren Manning made his CART début at the race for Team St. George

One driver made his début at the race. Dale Coyne Racing was formed in what was described as an "all-England" team named Team St. George for a one-race deal with British American Racing Formula One test driver and ASCAR Days of Thunder series competitor Darren Manning.[8] He performed 200 miles (320 km) of shakedown running which included a mandatory 100-mile (160 km) test for rookie drivers held under the observation of former CART driver Nicolas Minassian.[2] Manning said of the decision to drive the team's No. 10 car: "It's something special, a dream come true. To drive a Champ Car is a dream in itself, it's really got some horsepower. But the special thing here is to be a part of Team St. George."[8] He stated that he wanted to impress other teams but admitted to having a disadvantage in that he had not competed in the series beforehand.[9]

After heavy rain resulted in drainage problems that affected the previous year's event, workers employed by the track's owners sealed its tarmac surface and added an extra layer of 35 millimetres (3.5 cm) above it with a sealant allowing for the drainage of standing water. Grace said they had more knowledge of how the track behaved and expected that the race would be run more smoothly. He noted that people expected more in its second year. Rockingham Motor Speedway's facilities underwent improvements which included the addition of access roads and signage for visiting spectators.[10]

Practice and qualifyingEdit

One 135-minute practice session was held on Friday morning before the Saturday afternoon race.[2] Alex Tagliani was fastest in the session, which took place in dry, warm weather conditions, with a lap of 24.811 seconds; Tora Takagi, da Matta, Franchitti and Carpentier rounded out the session's top five drivers. Seven yellow caution flags were shown: the first two were for track inspections, the next two were for debris located in turns three and four. The fifth caution was for Shinji Nakano who stopped at the bottom of turns three and four with smoke billowing from his engine and dropped oil on the track that was cleaned. The sixth was caused by Michel Jourdain Jr. whose engine failed and stopped between turns three and four; his car was extricated from the circuit. The last was for Scott Dixon who slowed with a loss of engine power on the backstretch.[11]

 
Kenny Bräck had the seventh pole position of his career.

Friday afternoon's qualifying session lasted for 90 minutes. One car was permitted on the track in reverse order of the fastest combined practice laps. Each driver ran two laps, with the starting order determined by the competitor's fastest times. The session took place in dry and sunny weather conditions.[12] Bräck recorded the track speed record at Rockingham Motor Speedway to secure his first pole position of the season, the seventh of his CART career, and his second at the circuit,[13][14] with a time of 24.908 seconds.[14] He was joined on the grid's front row by Michael Andretti who was two-hundredths of a second slower. Da Matta qualified third. He removed his foot from the accelerator pedal driving through the fourth turn.[15] Takagi took fourth,[15] and Franchitti started fifth after steering right to the right of the track on his second lap due to an oversteer that slowed him. Junqueira's car was set up with a large amount of downforce and qualified in sixth. Paul Tracy secured seventh after sliding in the third and fourth turns. Tony Kanaan went into a back-up car and qualified eighth.[16]

Forsythe Racing teammates Tagliani and Carpentier rounded out the top ten; An electrical problem overheated Carpentier's engine and he was unable to improve his time when his blowoff valve opened between the first and second turns.[17] Adrián Fernández was the fastest driver not to qualify in the top ten; his best lap time was more than two-tenths of a second slower than Bräck.[15] A large amount of oversteer reduced Fittipaldi's pace in turn four and he took 12th.[16] Jimmy Vasser and Oriol Servià took the 13th and 14th positions;[15] Servià's car had oversteer after his first timed lap and drove into the pit lane for car adjustments to make him faster on his second attempt. Nakano, 15th, had a large amount of understeer which slowed him in turn four.[16] Dixon moved from his back-up car to his primary vehicle for qualifying and took 16th. Manning worked on his race setup though gearbox issues before qualifying prevented his team from focusing on a qualifying tune and he placed 17th.[18] Mario Domínguez and Jourdain completed the qualifiers;[15] Jourdain slowed through the third and fourth turns after an oversteer though his reduced speed prevented him from spinning.[16]

RaceEdit

 
The start of the race.

The drivers took to the track at 09:30 British Summer Time (UTC+01:00) for a 30-minute warm-up session in cloudy weather conditions.[19] Andretti continued his strong form by recording the session's fastest lap of 25.205 seconds. Takagi continued to drive quickly and was second-fastest ahead of Carpentier. After the session ended, Franchitti said he felt the race's first laps would be treacherous as the ASCAR support race laid rubber that made the track slippery. He stated his belief that most of the overtaking would occur in the pit lane.[20]

Weather conditions at the start were cloudy with an air temperature between 16 and 18 °C (61 and 64 °F) and a track temperature ranging from 18 and 20 °C (64 and 68 °F).[21][22] An estimated 30,000 people attended the event.[23] CART set the mandatory pit stop window to a maximum of 47 laps, which required all drivers to make at least four pit stops.[20] Grace commanded the drivers to start their engines.[24] The race began at 1:36 p.m. local time. Bräck maintained his pole position advantage heading into the first turn. Tagliani drove alongside his teammate Carpentier and overtook him for ninth place.[22] Serviá moved from 14th to tenth by the end of the first lap, but dropped to eleventh when another car passed him. He returned to tenth shortly afterwards.[25] Junqueira was passed by Tagliani to move into seventh on lap three. After starting from 12th, Fittipaldi dropped to the rear of the field and drove slower than the leading drivers. Tracy slowed without warning on lap 13 in the second turn with a power steering issue, and the first caution of the race was displayed two laps later when he stopped under the white line on the back straight with a gearbox problem requiring course officials to remove his car from the track.[22] His engine's telemetry stopped working indicating a crank sensor failure, possibly caused by his gearbox problem.[26]

 
Christian Fittipaldi retired on lap 44 due to engine problems.

Some drivers elected to make pit stops under caution.[22] Fittipaldi had his engine control unit and spark box changed on lap 17 after he reported a problem with his car.[27] Bräck remained the leader at the lap-21 restart and pulled away from the rest of the field. Andretti began to reduce the gap between Bräck and himself between laps 31 and 33. Tagliani reduced his pace between the second and third turns on lap 42,[22] and was ordered by his engineer to enter the pit lane.[28] His crew removed his car's left sidepod and retired on the next lap with a battery problem. A second caution was necessitated on the 46th lap when debris was located in turn two. The leaders made their pit stops because of the mandatory pit stop window.[22] Fittipaldi's car problem re-emerged on the 44th lap despite having his vehicle's coils and springs changed; he drove to the pit lane to retire because his team's mechanics could not rectify the issue.[27] Franchitti stalled his car because of a clutch issue. Bräck maintained the first position at the lap-52 restart, followed by Takagi. Nine laps later, Takagi attempted to overtake Bräck around the outside for the lead but did not complete the pass because of the presence of slower cars.[22]

 
Shinji Nakano crashed after completing 61 laps.

Nakano lost grip in the front of his vehicle and went straight into the turn four wall on the same lap. He heavily damaged his car's right-hand side prompting a third caution. Nakano slid through the infield and stopped unhurt on the frontstretch. Bräck led the field back up to speed at the lap-70 restart, with Takagi in second. Green-flag pit stops began on lap 94, with Bräck stopping on the same lap and Franchitti became the leader.[22][29] It was part of Franchitti's strategy, devised by his team manager Kyle Moyer, to drive in clean air.[30] Andretti was required to serve a stop-and-go penalty, which he took on the 103rd lap, after he was observed speeding in the pit lane. Franchitti made his pit stop four laps later and Manning took the lead. Manning made his pit stop on lap 114 and Bräck reclaimed the lead. After starting from 16th, Dixon was running in sixth by the 126th lap. He served two stop-and-go penalties because he was twice observed exceeding the pit lane speed limit, while Domínguez was similarly penalised.[22]

 
Dario Franchitti clinched his third victory of the season, and his first on an oval track.

The third round of green-flag pit stops commenced fifteen laps later when Bräck became the first driver to stop. Franchitti inherited the first position until he made his pit stop on lap 143, handing it to Manning.[22] This meant Manning became the first driver to lead his début CART race twice.[31] The fourth caution was necessitated on the 155th lap when Manning's right-hand rear wing endplate detached and landed on the track between the first and second turns.[32] Manning made a pit stop but his crew elected not to repair his rear wing.[22] It assisted in making his car develop less understeer and slightly improved its balance.[32] Racing resumed on lap 163 with Bräck leading a single-file restart. The left side of Kanaan's car collided heavily with the wall on the backstraight six laps later, triggering the fifth (and final) caution. All drivers (including Bräck) made pit stops under caution.[22] A crew member on Bräck's team dropped a left-rear wheel nut dropping him to ninth.[30] Fernández was observed speeding and was required to move to the rear of the field.[29] Da Matta's team were slow to fit his right-rear tyre preventing him from taking the first position and he emerged in second.[27]

Franchitti gained the lead and held it at the lap-180 restart. Junqueira attempted to pass Servià around the inside for fourth but was unsuccessful.[22] Carpentier attempted to pressure da Matta towards the end but found it difficult to overtake and he did not want to be aggressive by going off the racing line.[28] Vasser set the race's fastest lap during the 210th (and penultimate) lap, competing a circuit of 25.217 seconds.[33] Franchitti maintained the lead for the remainder of the race and crossed the start-finish line after 211 laps to take his third (and final) victory of the season, his first win on an oval track in CART, and the tenth (and last) of his career.[22] Da Matta was second, ahead of Carpentier in third, Servià was fourth and Junqueira fifth. Takagi, Vasser, Bräck, Manning, and Andretti rounded out the top ten finishers. Jourdain, Dixon, and Domínguez were the final classified finishers.[34] There were nine lead changes in the race; four drivers reached the front of the field. Bräck's total of 134 laps led was the highest of any competitor. Franchitti led three times, for a total of 58 laps.[34]

Post-raceEdit

 
Franchitti celebrating winning the event.

The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and spoke to the media at a press conference. Franchitti was happy with the victory, saying that he did not believe that it would be different to win at the track but that it was "very, very special". He said that after his first pit stop he did not think that he would be able to win the race.[31] Da Matta stated that he was worried about his advantage in the points standings and felt he had the car to win the event. He added that he could not relax because other drivers still had a mathematical chance of clinching the championship, though he was pleased with the result. Third-place finisher Carpentier said he was happy with his position and that it was a good day for his team. He revealed that changes made to his aerodynamic setup worked on the rolling restarts although it slowed him on the backstraight.[35] Franchitti's race engineer Allen McDonald praised his driver, saying his first victory on an oval track was one that he would remember and that it was an "unbelievable day".[26]

Manning said while his ninth-place result in his début race was one his team felt was a "fantastic result", he spoke of his disappointment that he was unable to get practice runs before qualifying as he felt that he could have started in a higher position.[31] Bräck stated that he lost the chance of victory when a crew member dropped a wheel nut on his final pit stop, saying: "There is something hanging over us. I do my part, they do their part. When everyone is having a good day you win. If not, you lose."[23] Fernández was angry with the pit lane speeding penalty, saying he felt he could have achieved a better finishing position and that the rule on pit lane speeding could "ruin your day".[29] After the race, he spent several hours discussing the penalty with race officials.[32] John Lopes, the CART Vice President of Racing Operations, later stated that the series would investigate the rules regarding pit lane speeding penalties but affirmed that no action could be taken until after the season's end.[36]

Rick Broadbent, writing in The Times, said that due to his victory, Franchitti should have become "a household name" and felt that his future career prospects would be unhindered.[37] Mike Nicks in The Observer called Franchitti's win "the greatest of his career",[38] while Jim McGill of Scotland on Sunday noted that while Formula One was promoted as the fastest and most glamorous motorsport, he wrote of his feeling that Franchitti's victory allowed CART to showcase its more "dramatic" action.[39] Grace remarked on the possible implications of Franchitti's success on the promotion of CART in the United Kingdom, "If that doesn't sell this sport to Britain then I don't know what will."[37] The Stamford Mercury & Citizen said the sound of the cars at the circuit was "one of those sporting moments which stand up the hairs on the back of your head."[24]

The result increased da Matta's advantage over Junqueira in the Drivers' Championship by five points. Franchitti remained in third place but decreased his deficit to sit seven points behind Junqueira. Carpentier kept fourth place with 115 points, and Fittipaldi remained in fifth on 98 points.[40] Toyota extended their lead over Honda in the Manufacturers' Championship to be 32 points ahead. Ford Cosworth maintained third position on 192 points, with four races left in the season.[40] Highlights of the event were shown the day after in the United Kingdom on the BBC Two sports programme Sunday Grandstand with commentary provided by former racing drivers Johnny Herbert and Charlie Cox.[41] 60 million television viewers in 190 countries watched the race.[38] The event was the last to be held at the Rockingham Motor Speedway as it was announced in December 2002 that the United Kingdom race would be moved to Brands Hatch, Kent.[42]

ClassificationEdit

QualifyingEdit

 
Patrick Carpentier was restricted to qualifying tenth but ran strongly in the race to finish third.
Pos No. Driver Team Time Speed Gap
1 12   Kenny Bräck Chip Ganassi Racing 24.908 213.763
2 39   Michael Andretti Team Green 24.928 213.591 +0.020
3 6   Cristiano da Matta Newman/Haas Racing 24.954 213.369 +0.046
4 5   Tora Takagi Walker Racing 24.958 213.334 +0.050
5 27   Dario Franchitti Team Green 25.001 212.967 +0.093
6 3   Bruno Junqueira Chip Ganassi Racing 25.003 212.950 +0.095
7 26   Paul Tracy Team Green 25.034 212.687 +0.126
8 10   Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Racing 25.048 212.568 +0.140
9 33   Alex Tagliani Forsythe Racing 25.158 211.638 +0.250
10 32   Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Racing 25.182 211.437 +0.274
11 51   Adrian Fernández Fernández Racing 25.228 211.051 +0.320
12 11   Christian Fittipaldi Newman/Haas Racing 25.251 210.859 +0.343
13 8   Jimmy Vasser Team Rahal 25.260 210.784 +0.352
14 20   Oriol Servià Patrick Racing 25.292 210.517 +0.384
15 52   Shinji Nakano Fernández Racing 25.300 210.451 +0.392
16 44   Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 25.362 209.936 +0.454
17 19   Darren Manning Team St. George 25.441 209.284 +0.533
18 55   Mario Domínguez Herdez Competition 25.592 208.049 +0.684
19 9   Michel Jourdain Jr. Team Rahal 25.616 207.854 +0.708
Source:[15]

RaceEdit

 
Cristiano da Matta started from third and finished in second place to increase his Drivers' Championship advantage.
Pos No. Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 27   Dario Franchitti Team Green 211 1:58:44.754 5 20
2 6   Cristiano da Matta Newman/Haas Racing 211 +0.986 3 16
3 32   Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Racing 211 +2.785 10 14
4 20   Oriol Servià Patrick Racing 211 +3.757 14 12
5 4   Bruno Junqueira Chip Ganassi Racing 211 +4.281 6 10
6 5   Tora Takagi Walker Racing 211 +4.778 4 8
7 8   Jimmy Vasser Team Rahal 211 +5.132 13 6
8 12   Kenny Bräck Chip Ganassi Racing 211 +13.912 1 7
9 19   Darren Manning Team St. George 211 +15.863 17 4
10 39   Michael Andretti Team Green 209 + 2 Laps 2 3
11 9   Michel Jourdain Jr. Team Rahal 209 + 2 Laps 19 2
12 44   Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 209 + 2 Laps 16 1
13 55   Mario Domínguez Herdez Competition 209 + 2 Laps 18 0
14 51   Adrian Fernández Fernández Racing 186 Retired 11 0
15 10   Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Racing 167 Contact 8 0
16 52   Shinji Nakano Fernández Racing 61 Contact 15 0
17 11   Christian Fittipaldi Newman/Haas Racing 44 Engine 12 0
18 33   Alex Tagliani Forsythe Racing 42 Battery lead 9 0
19 26   Paul Tracy Team Green 12 Gearbox 7 0
Source:[34]

Standings after the raceEdit

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for the drivers' standings.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "2002 CART schedule". USA Today. 4 November 2001. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
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  24. ^ a b "Rockingham revels in a home win for Super Dario". Stamford Mercury & Citizen. 19 September 2002. Retrieved 28 September 2016 – via Infotrac Newsstand.
  25. ^ "Oriol Servia Scores Highest Finish With Visteon/Patrick Racing At Rockingham 500 Earns Second Best CART Career Showing". Patrick Racing. 15 September 2002. Archived from the original on 2 October 2002. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  26. ^ a b "Franchitti Captures First Oval Track Victory at Rockingham". Brown & Williamson. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 5 December 2001. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  27. ^ a b c "Havoline Driver da Matta Finished 2nd in the Sure for Men 500 in England and Stretched his Point Lead From 52 to 58; Lilly Driver Fittipaldi Retired in 17th Place After Mechanical Failure". Newman/Haas Racing. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 11 October 2002. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  28. ^ a b "Team Player's Race Report". Championship Auto Racing Teams. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 18 October 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  29. ^ a b c "Fernandez Racing Race Report". Championship Auto Racing Teams. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 18 October 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  30. ^ a b "Rockingham 500: Dream win for Dario". Autosport. Haymarket Publications. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  31. ^ a b c Moffitt, Alastair (15 September 2002). "Franchitti revels in home victory to keep alive title dreams". The Independent. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  32. ^ a b c Oreovicz, John (14 September 2002). "Rockingham Saturday Notebook". Championship Auto Racing Teams. Archived from the original on 18 October 2002. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  33. ^ "Best Lap". Championship Auto Racing Teams. Archived from the original on 21 September 2002. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  34. ^ a b c "2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500K". Racing-Reference. USA Today Sports Media Group. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  35. ^ "CART Post Race Press Conference Transcript". Championship Auto Racing Teams. 14 September 2002. Archived from the original on 18 October 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  36. ^ "Fernandez cools off over pitlane row". crash.net. 25 September 2002. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
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  40. ^ a b c d e "CHAMPCAR/CART: Standings after Rockingham (Corby)". motorsport.com. 15 September 2002. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  41. ^ "Herbert rocks up to Rockingham for the BBC". BBC Press Office. 6 September 2002. Archived from the original on 23 April 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  42. ^ "CART returns to Europe". The Beaver County Times. Calkins Media. 10 January 2003. p. B9. Retrieved 28 January 2016.


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Final Event