Lotus driver Tony Kanaan overcame an horrendous crash in the morning warm-up and long odds to finish third today in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on the 2.04-mile, 13-turn downtown temporary street circuit in Baltimore, Maryland. E. J. Viso and Takuma Sato finished 15th and 18th respectively.
Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, had a horrendous accident in the morning warm-up when his brakes failed. The damage was so extensive that the entire KVRT – Lotus team including Kanaan himself, team co-owner Jimmy Vasser and General Manager Mark Johnson all worked alongside crew members of all three KVRT – Lotus cars for over four hours repairing the car and getting it to the grid on time. However, the team decided to switch tubs (the area where the driver sits), so Kanaan, per IndyCar rules, gridded 27th instead of 11th where he initially qualified. Kanaan drove intelligently during the early stages of the race and the team decided to use an alternative fuel strategy bringing him in for fuel on lap 12. Even with the early stop Kanaan still managed to make progress through the field and was running in 19th place when he pitted for fuel for the second time shortly after the first caution. His big break came following the restart which resulted in a massive crash in the hairpin. Kanaan avoided the carnage and when the dust settled and the field had been “reorganized” by series officials, he found himself in 11th place. At that point the team made the crucial decision to come in for a final splash of fuel and the stage was set. Kanaan immediately passed three cars to move into eighth place and when the lead cars, who were on a two stop strategy began to pit starting around lap 60 he found himself in third place. Saving fuel and defending his position, Kanaan made it the final 30 plus laps to finish on the podium.
Commenting on his day an exhausted Kanaan said, “Wow, what a day. We had a problem in the morning warm-up that caused a huge crash and destroyed my primary car. My guys really worked hard to get the backup car together. I mean, everyone from the team was helping to get the car ready for the race. Then we start 27th on a road course and finish third… What can I say? I’m as happy as I can be with this podium. Finishing third was a victory for us. It was a great performance from the whole GEICO-KVRT-Lotus team at GEICO’s hometown. It was awesome, great calls from my guys in the pits, huge support from my team, Kevin Kalkohven, Jimmy (Vasser) and Mark (Johnson) and a hard race where we fought for every inch and used every opportunity we had.”
Kanaan scored 35 points today and moved back into the top-five, at No. 5 in the championship race with 340 points. The 36-year-old Brazilian has finished in the top-10 nine times including seven top-five showings and three podiums (second at Iowa and third at St. Petersburg to go with today’s third). Kanaan has finished in the top-10 in six of the nine street/road races contesting this year including four top-five finishes and two podiums (St. Petersburg and Baltimore, third; Edmonton, fourth; Mid-Ohio, fifth also placed sixth at Barber and eighth at Long Beach)
Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, who for the second weekend in a row and the second time this season started a team-high ninth. He drove a very strong race, but was simply the victim of some bad luck in terms of the way the race unfolded. Viso quickly moved into sixth place where he ran for throughout the first stint. Following the hairpin crash, which he managed to avoid, Viso emerged in fourth place, but was later was dropped to fifth during the “reorganization.” Since he was running with the lead group the team utilized the same two pit stop strategy as the leaders, which unfortunately as the race developed the results did not play out as hoped. Viso remained in fifth place until his second and final stop on lap 59. Unfortunately, when he returned to completion he was in 15th place and stuck in traffic on a track that is difficult to pass.
“It was a really heartbreaking race,” Viso said. “It looked pretty clear that we could have finished 5th in the worst case scenario if the race had continued the way it was going, but a “lottery” came up at the end where we stuck with the leaders strategy and it worked out only for (Will) Power. We had a pretty good car that gave me the speed necessary to stay with the lead pack. It’s one of those races where things were going great and then we lost it all. We have been strong all weekend and now I’m looking forward to Japan. It’s going to be a new road course for all of us and I think we are going to do great there. I need to give a lot of credit to my crew for giving me a very solid car in the last few races.”
Viso scored 15 points today and remains 18th in the standings with 217 points. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has finished in the top-10 four times this year, twice on ovals, a season-high seventh in race one at Texas and 10th in the second plus road-course season-high ninths at Toronto and Sonoma. His career best finish on a road/street course is fourth at St. Petersburg in 2008 (overall career-high, third in Iowa).
Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, had a eventful qualifying. After posting the third fastest lap in his group in round one he was penalized his two fastest laps for causing a full course caution and ended up qualifying last of the 28 cars in the field. However, when Kanaan crashed into Helio Castroneves in the warm-up forcing both into backup cars, Sato moved up two spots without every running a lap. Starting with the drop of the green flag Sato continued that trend moving into 14th place during the first stint when several cars decided to use an alternative fuel strategy and pitted very early. Sato pitted for the first time on lap 21, a little early, but still a two pit stop strategy. Unfortunately, Sato got collected in the multi-car crash following the restart after the first caution and damaged his front wing. During the ensuing yellow, the team made the decision to revert to an alternative fuel strategy pitting twice within four laps. The plan worked to perfection as Sato began to pass cars with abandon and the leaders two stop strategy failed. At that point Sato found himself in sixth place, but unfortunately he had very slight contact with the wall with two laps remaining in the race and damaged the car ending his day in 18th place.
Commenting on the race Sato said, “It was a tough race. During the first stint I moved up. Midway through the second stint there was a crash involving multiple cars in the hairpin after a restart and I had unavoidable contact which damaged the front wing. I stayed out and when they reorganized the field I was in ninth place. We decided to put in enough fuel to make it to the end of the race and at the same time we fixed the wing, which put me in the back of the grid. From there I raced really hard and it was quite exciting overtaking cars in the hairpin. Also the strategy worked well. At the end I was running in sixth place when unfortunately, I brushed the wall and damaged the steering, so in the end I could not turn the car through the hairpin. It was really a shame.”
Sato earned 12 points for his effort today and is 14th in the standings with 262 points. The 34-year-old from Japan has finished in the top-10 six times including his first three IndyCar top-five finishes (career-high fourth on the road course at Mid-Ohio, fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas). Three of his top-10 finishes and two of his top-fives have come on street/road circuits (career-high fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas).
KVRT – Lotus has had some of their best results this season on tracks that require drivers to turn right as well as left and earning 11 top-10 finishes with six top-five showings in nine road/street events.
Next up for KVRT – Lotus is the Indy Japan 300, September 15-17, on the Twin Ring Motegi road course in Motegi Tochigi, Japan. The race will be broadcast in the United States on Saturday, September 16 on Versus at 11:30 p.m. ET