(Our resident IndyCar contributor Matt Lennon provides his exclusive review of the action-packed 2010 Sao Paulo Indy 300, won in dramatic fashion by Australia’s Will Power.)
As predicted by yours truly in my race preview article, Will Power won having run the perfect fuel-conserving race, positioning himself perfectly for a late pass on IZOD Andretti Autosports driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. The win was his second consecutive win on first-round inaugural events, the last being the only Champ Car Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2007.
Dario Franchitti took the first Peak Performance Pole Position award of the season, while most of the other regular front-runners were dispersed throughout the rest of the grid.
Also predicted was a first lap accident, which duly came at the first corner. Upon the drop of the green flag, dust from the recently resurfaced track was thrown up by the leaders, impairing the vision of the rest of the field. IndyCar rookie Takuma Sato missed his braking point, failed to stop in time for the corner and steered into the back of two-time series champion Scott Dixon. Helio Castroneves was also caught up in this collision, dislodging his front wing and forcing early repairs.
|The expected first-corner pile-up eliminated three cars. Mario Moraes’ collision with Marco Andretti was as clumsy as it was frightening – somehow Marco avoided decapitation and emerged from his wreck unscathed.|
Further back however was the most spectacular incident of the first corner mayhem. Also failing to slow down in time for the first corner was hometown hero Mario Moraes, who launched over the top of Marco Andretti, coming to rest on top. A full-course caution led the cars around while the safety team removed all the debris. Upon the restart, Franchitti led from Alex Tagliani and Justin Wilson. The next caution period came after Milka Duno stopped on the racing line, forcing most of the field in for their first pitstops. Only one car did not take the opportunity for a stop, having done so earlier in the race. Simona De Silvestro became the new leader, and upon the restart, held on to the lead for 5 laps before Ryan Hunter-Reay, furiously trying to maintain control of his car over the bumpy track, passed for the lead into Turn 5.
Lap 30 saw Panthers Racing driver Dan Wheldon miss his braking point into Turn 5, barrelling into the back of Tony Kanaan, pushing both down the safety road. Both managed to regather themselves and continue the race. From the beginning of the race, rain had been threatening to throw a spanner in the works for all the drivers, and at the halfway point, the first drops of rain soon became a torrential deluge. Ryan Briscoe was the first driver to pit for wet tyres, while others who missed their chance soon began aquaplaning all over the track. Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz among those spinning at various points, while Alex Lloyd tapped the wall following his spin, but all managed to continue and pit for their wet tyres.
With the rain intensifying and standing water becoming prevalent all over the circuit, the decision was taken to stop the race while more effective drainage was carried out. All cars returned to the pit lane for a delay that would eventually last half an hour.
Upon the restart, it didn’t help that the storm had briefly knocked out communications to the broadcast booth, the teams and race control, so only the broadcast footage was able to be used to determine who was in which position.
With the stoppage, the race was turned into a timed event, where the total distance was run over the allowed 2 hours rather than the originally intended 75-lap distance. The race resumed with 43 minutes of racing remaining.
Dario Franchitti, on the back of some poor pit stops, fell back through the field, eventually finishing 7th. Meanwhile, at the front, Ryan Hunter-Reay began to open up a gap to the field, and his first victory since the 2008 Watkins Glen race was looking a distinct possibility.
Behind Hunter-Reay, a pack of cars, consisting of Raphael Matos, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon were all running nose-to-tail. Behind Wheldon, the returning Vitor Meira only just managed to slow down into the first corner on Lap 43, avoiding taking out the entire group in front.
While this pack began to put a little bit of space between each other and make pit stops, Ryan Briscoe managed to catch Hunter-Reay, who was saving fuel, and eventually managed to get past going into the final corner. Hunter-Reay wasn’t going down without a fight however, and kept pace with Briscoe for several laps, trying to force Briscoe into making a mistake.
That persistence paid off on Lap 54, as Briscoe took too much speed into Turn 6 and lodged into the tyre wall, causing the final full-course caution of the race and allowing Hunter-Reay to save enough fuel to get to the end of the race without making another pit stop. The field bunched up and the race was soon restarted once Briscoe was dislodge from the tyre barriers.
With 3 minutes of racing remaining, Will Power, who had remained largely unnoticed through the race to this point, found himself with a slipstream approaching Turn 11.
He didn’t need an invitation, moving alongside and managing to squeeze past Hunter-Reay. Running pretty much only on fumes at this point, Hunter-Reay was in no position to push to catch the Penske driver, who took the victory from Hunter-Reay and Vitor Meira, who had managed to overtake a few drivers late in the race.
With the field packing up from a successful inaugural Sao Paulo Indycar 300, the circus moves back to the United States, and to another temporary street circuit at St Petersburg, in sunny Florida, in 2 weeks time.
Click here to view the Final Classification.
Click here to view the Championship Standings.
[Images via AUTOSPORT]