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2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500

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2002 Rockingham
Race details
Race 15 of 19 in the 2002 CART season
Rockingham Motor Speedway.svg
Rockingham Motor Speedway Oval Course
Date 14 September, 2002
Official name 2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500
Location Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Northamptonshire, England
Course Permanent racing facility
1.479 mi / 2.380 km
Distance 211 laps
312.069 mi / 502.18 km
Weather Cloudy, Cool
Pole position
Driver Kenny Bräck (Chip Ganassi Racing)
Time 24.908
Fastest lap
Driver Jimmy Vasser (Team Rahal)
Time 25.217 (on lap 210 of 211)
Podium
First Dario Franchitti (Team Green)
Second Cristiano da Matta (Newman/Haas Racing)
Third Patrick Carpentier (Forysthe Racing)

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 the Newman/Haas Racing team, and Forsythe Racing driver Patrick Carpentier came in third.

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 over the lead and held it for the remainder of the event to clinch the victory. It was Franchitti's third win of the season, his first on an oval track, and the tenth (and final) 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.

Report[edit]

Background[edit]

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] The Rockingham 500 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 the season 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. The chief executive of the track invited German CART fans to attend the Rockingham 500.[7] Franchitti was considered by the media to be the favourite to win the race. He 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 believed he could continue his good run of results in Europe and hoped the racing would be competitive. 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 believed the Rockingham 500 was important and hoped to secure a top-three finishing position. Carpentier said although he was disappointed with his previous result at the track, he was convinced he would be able to improve his performance.[2]

Darren Manning made his 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 which was 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 and 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 running of the race, 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 which would allow standing water to drain from it. David Grace, the circuit's chief executive, said they had more knowledge of how the track behaved and expected that the event would be run more smoothly and 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 qualifying[edit]

Kenny Bräck had the seventh pole position of his career.

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 was second, and da Matta third. Francitti was fourth-fastest, 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 which dropped oil on the track that needed to be cleaned. The sixth was caused by Michel Jourdain Jr. when his engine failed and stopped between turns three and four and his car was extracted from the circuit, and the final was for Scott Dixon who slowed on the backstretch with a loss of engine power.[11]

Friday afternoon's qualifying session lasted for 90 minutes. The cars went out one at a time in the 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 and secured his first pole position of the season, the seventh of his CART career, as well as 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 set a lap time, two-hundredths of a second slower than Bräck. Da Matta qualified third. He had removed his foot from the accelerator pedal when driving through the fourth turn and felt he could have started from first place.[15] Takagi took fourth,[15] and Franchitti started fifth after he steered right to the track's outside on his second lap due to oversteer and reduced his speed which prevented him from setting a faster time. Junqueira's car was set up with a large amount of downforce which restricted him to sixth, and Paul Tracy secured seventh because his car slid in the third and fourth turns. Tony Kanaan qualified in eighth and was satisfied with his lap which was recorded in a back-up car.[16] Forsythe Racing teammates Tagliani and Carpentier rounded out the top ten qualifiers; Carpentier was hampered by an electrical problem which overheated his engine and 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] Fittipaldi's car developed a large amount of oversteer and reduced his 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 where his crew made adjustments allowing him to drive faster for 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 but gearbox issues before the session prevented his team from focusing on a qualifying tune and he qualified in 17th.[18] Mario Domínguez and Jourdain completed the qualifiers;[15] Jourdain reduced his speed through the third and fourth turns after he encountered oversteer and his slower pace prevented him from spinning.[16]

Race[edit]

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 which was held in cloudy weather conditions.[19] Andretti continued his strong form at the track by recording the session's fastest lap with a time of 25.205 seconds. Takagi continued to drive quickly and was second-fastest ahead of Carpentier. After the session ended, Franchitti felt the first laps of the event would be treacherous after the ASCAR support race laid rubber on the track's surface, and he believed most of the overtaking would occur in the pit lane.[20]

Weather conditions at the start of the race 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 started 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 he was passed by another car. He moved back into tenth place shortly afterwards.[25] Junqueira was passed by Tagliani to move into seventh position 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 which required 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, and he drove into 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 pass Bräck around the outside for the first position but was unable to complete the manoeuvre 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 over first place. Manning made his pit stop on lap 114 and Bräck reclaimed the lead. After starting from 16th, Dixon was running in sixth place 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 racing driver to lead his CART début race twice.[31] The fourth caution was necessitated on the 155th lap when Manning's right-hand endplate on his rear wing became detached and landed on the track between the first and second turns.[32] Manning made a pit stop but his crew did not make repairs to 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 which meant he dropped 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 which prevented him from taking the first position and he re-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 position but was unable to get ahead.[22] Carpentier attempted to pressure da Matta towards the end of the race but it was difficult to overtake and he did not want to be very aggressive and run 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 win the race.[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 last of the classified finishers.[34] It was Franchitti's third (and final) victory of the season, his first win on an oval track in CART, and the tenth (and final) of his career.[22] 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-race[edit]

Franchitti celebrating winning the event.

The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and appeared later at a press conference. Franchitti was happy with the victory, saying that he did not think 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, and praised his team for their work.[31] Da Matta stated that he was worried about his advantage in the points standings and felt he had the car which could win the event. He added that he could not relax because other drivers still had a mathematical chance of clinching the championship, but 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 his ninth-place result in his début race was one they felt was a "fantastic result" which he and his team had achieved in a short period of time. He thanked his crew, their sponsor, and the track's management. However, he was disappointed that he was unable to get practice runs before the qualifying session 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 Franchitti should have become "a household name" due to his victory and felt that his future career prospects would be unhindered.[37] 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] 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, Franchitti's victory helped CART show it could deliver the most drama.[39] 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 meant da Matta increased his 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 the race 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]

Classification[edit]

Qualifying[edit]

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 Sweden Kenny Bräck Chip Ganassi Racing 24.908 213.763
2 39 United States Michael Andretti Team Green 24.928 213.591 +0.020
3 6 Brazil Cristiano da Matta Newman/Haas Racing 24.954 213.369 +0.046
4 5 Japan Tora Takagi Walker Racing 24.958 213.334 +0.050
5 27 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti Team Green 25.001 212.967 +0.093
6 3 Brazil Bruno Junqueira Chip Ganassi Racing 25.003 212.950 +0.095
7 26 Canada Paul Tracy Team Green 25.034 212.687 +0.126
8 10 Brazil Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Racing 25.048 212.568 +0.140
9 33 Canada Alex Tagliani Forsythe Racing 25.158 211.638 +0.250
10 32 Canada Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Racing 25.182 211.437 +0.274
11 51 Mexico Adrian Fernández Fernández Racing 25.228 211.051 +0.320
12 11 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi Newman/Haas Racing 25.251 210.859 +0.343
13 8 United States Jimmy Vasser Team Rahal 25.260 210.784 +0.352
14 20 Spain Oriol Servià Patrick Racing 25.292 210.517 +0.384
15 52 Japan Shinji Nakano Fernández Racing 25.300 210.451 +0.392
16 44 New Zealand Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 25.362 209.936 +0.454
17 19 United Kingdom Darren Manning Team St. George 25.441 209.284 +0.533
18 55 Mexico Mario Domínguez Herdez Competition 25.592 208.049 +0.684
19 9 Mexico Michel Jourdain Jr. Team Rahal 25.616 207.854 +0.708
Source:[15]

Race[edit]

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 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti Team Green 211 1:58:44.754 5 20
2 6 Brazil Cristiano da Matta Newman/Haas Racing 211 +0.986 3 16
3 32 Canada Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Racing 211 +2.785 10 14
4 20 Spain Oriol Servià Patrick Racing 211 +3.757 14 12
5 4 Brazil Bruno Junqueira Chip Ganassi Racing 211 +4.281 6 10
6 5 Japan Tora Takagi Walker Racing 211 +4.778 4 8
7 8 United States Jimmy Vasser Team Rahal 211 +5.132 13 6
8 12 Sweden Kenny Bräck Chip Ganassi Racing 211 +13.912 1 7
9 19 United Kingdom Darren Manning Team St. George 211 +15.863 17 4
10 39 United States Michael Andretti Team Green 209 + 2 Laps 2 3
11 9 Mexico Michel Jourdain Jr. Team Rahal 209 + 2 Laps 19 2
12 44 New Zealand Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 209 + 2 Laps 16 1
13 55 Mexico Mario Domínguez Herdez Competition 209 + 2 Laps 18 0
14 51 Mexico Adrian Fernández Fernández Racing 186 Retired 11 0
15 10 Brazil Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Racing 167 Contact 8 0
16 52 Japan Shinji Nakano Fernández Racing 61 Contact 15 0
17 11 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi Newman/Haas Racing 44 Engine 12 0
18 33 Canada Alex Tagliani Forsythe Racing 42 Battery lead 9 0
19 26 Canada Paul Tracy Team Green 12 Gearbox 7 0
Source:[34]

Standings after the race[edit]

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

References[edit]

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  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. 
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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. 
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  42. ^ "CART returns to Europe". The Beaver County Times. Calkins Media. 10 January 2003. p. B9. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 


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Previous race:
2001 Rockingham 500
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Final Event