Ribeiro Wins A Wild One At MIS
By Jim DeFord
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 28, 1996) - Andre Ribeiro made it two in a row for Tasman Racing in what was unquestionably the most exciting IndyCar race of the year to date.
"The car was running well in the beginning," Andre said, "but it improved after each pit stop. It kept getting better and better."
Defending champion, Scott Pruett, made a late race challenge but ended up (yet again) with a toasty Cosworth in the back of his Lola.
"He (Pruett) was complete," Ribeiro said, "but we were conserving fuel. It was not the time to take the lead. I was saving everything for the end to battle for the lead."
And that's exactly what he did as he was not seriously challenged in an 8-lap dash to the finish ahead of Bryan Herta and Mauricio Gugelmin.
There were six different leaders in the 1996 version of the Marlboro 500 and 15 lead changes in what is the most competitive race of the season so far. The drivers were battling all over the track, sometimes going five-wide to make a pass.
Points leader, Jimmy Vasser, saw his lead dwindle, with a ninth-place finish, to a mere one-point lead over Al Unser Jr., who finished a strong fourth.
The Lucky Driver of the Day award goes to Gil de Ferran who escaped serious injury when Alex Zanardi hit the wall on lap 128. A tire flew off Zanardi's car, careening off the fence and removed his left-side mirror and rear-wing endplate.
The endplate was replaced at a later caution period but Gil went out later in the race with two blown rear wheel bearings.
Alex Zanardi seemed to have this race under control until he went high into turn 4 and removed the right side of his car. Zanardi was not injured.
Greg Moore was strong early in the race, leading a total of 31 laps but finished 23 laps down, also suffering rear wheel bearing problems.
Michael Andretti was also battling with the leaders but suffered a faulty alternator and packed it in after 99 laps.
But this race was not without it's bumps and bruises.
Emerson Fittipaldi was injured when he touched wheels with Greg Moore, sending his car backwards into the wall in turn two. Emmo suffered a fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra and a partial collapse of the left lung. He was moving all of his extremities. He was transferred from Foote Hospital to St. Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor, the regional trauma and spinal cord treatment center.
In addition it was also announced today that Paul Tracy was released from W.A. Foote Hospital this morning. Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs and Services, reviewed Tracy's X-rays last evening and spoke with him this morning, before Tracy departed for his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Tracy suffered a chip fracture of the Spinous Process (sixth vertebra), and bruised knees during an incident in Saturday morning's IndyCar practice session. Dr. Trammell plans to examine Tracy this week in Indianapolis, at which point a decision will be made regarding whether Tracy will be cleared to drive at Mid-Ohio.
On lap 97 Roberto Moreno suffered a bruised right thigh after making contact with the wall in turn 4.
Parker Johnstone also hit the wall in turn 4 on lap 236, but much harder than Moreno. As Parker's car slid down the track towards the infield he removed the steering wheel and made it clear he wanted out.
Parker climbed from his car then then collapsed on the grass, obviously in pain. Johnstone bruised his knees and was complaining of tenderness in his neck. He was airlifted to W.A. FooteHospital for neck X-rays.
Two noteable performances come from Dan Gurney's garage. Both Eagle-Toyota drivers, P.J. Jones and Juan Manuel Fangio II who completed the race though 16 and 10 laps down, respectively.
The Toyota drivers were 5 miles and hour quicker than at the U.S. 500. Look for Toyota to be very competitive in 1997.