Race No. 2

Surfer's Paradise — Gold Coast, Australia
April 4 — April 6, 1997

1996 Pole Winner: Jimmy Vasser
1996 Race Winner: Jimmy Vasser
1996 SpeedCenter Report

Satellite Weather map

Carnival in Oz
CART arrives for IndyCarnival
at Australia's Gold Coast

©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

The 1997 Gold Coast Australia race at Surfers Paradise offers the chanceof repeat vicories for only three of the 29 cars entered in the event.The race is scheduled for April 6, and will be aired as a taped delay at1:30PM EST on ABC.

With changes in this years' PPG CART World Series schedule, Jimmy Vasserhad the opportunity to pilot his Target/Chip Ganassi Honda to defendvictories in the first four events of 1997. Last year, Vasser opened theseason with victories in four of the first six races, on his way towinning the PPG Cup. The second of Vassers' '96 victories came from thepole at last years' Surfers Paradise, Australia race.

Only two other drivers entered in this years' field have won at thisvenue, and both of them finished ahead of Vasser at the '97 seasonopener in Homestead, FL. Michael Andretti (KMart/Texaco/Havoline SwiftFord) won the event in '94, and Paul Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes)won at Surfers Paradise in '95. This will be only the seventh showing atthe Queesland, Australia venue, with previous races having been won byJohn Andretti in '91, Emerson Fittipaldi in '92, Nigel Mansel in '93,Michael Andretti in '94, Paul Tracy in '95, and by Jimmy Vasser in '96.

Andretti's shining performance at Homestead not only brought victory toan American made chassis for the first time in 14 years, but also gaveAndretti sole possession of the all-time CART victories lead with 36career wins. Michael has tested recently with the Swift chassis andclaims to have conquered early problems the team had experienced withthe gear box. This is especially important on a course such as SurfersParadise due to the extreme punishment on equipment dealt out by astreet course. The drivers will be required to make approximately 50gear changes per lap in the scheduled 65 lap event.

Tracy also turned in a strong showing at Homested, placing second behindAndretti. This was also the greatest improvement in Tracy's 7 year, 79start career, coming from 16th position on the grid to reach the podium.The effort was the best showing for the Penske camp since Al Unser, Jr.placed second at Milwaukee in '96, 11 races earlier. Penske seems tohave conquered many of their woes suffered in last years' season too.The Marlboro Penske Mercedes Goodyear combination has looked strong intesting sessions and both drivers looked strong at Homestead untilLittle Al suffered and engine failure after climbing to 5th place from10th on the first lap. You can never count out Little Al on a streetcourse, though.

Sunday's IndyCarnival should offer extremely exciting,competitive racing. The promoters of IndyCarnival, Gold Coast MotorEvents Company, Pty. have continued to make adjustments and improvementsto the track over the years. This year's most significant improvement isthe repositioning of the safety wall on the back chicane, moving it 20 feet further back. This is to avoid incidents like 1995's late race crash that took out Michael Andretti, while safely in the lead of the race at that time.

We will also see the addition and introduction of another experienced roadcourse driver at the event. German driver Arnd Meier in theJ.A.G./Marceli/Hawaiian Tropic Lola Ford Goodyear, driving for ProjectIndy, will make his debut CART appearance. Meier is expected to drive up to 10 races this season, splitting duties with Dennis Vitolo who will drive the car in the other events.

The stories to look out for at this round of the championship:

Has Lola conquered its' early season problems? Will Firestone be able to continue their dominance onroad/street courses? What if it rains? There is a lot of talk in Formula 1 about the vastly superior Bridgestone (parent company of Firestone) rain tires... Will the Swift chassis be as competitive on an "abusive" track like Surfer's Paradise like it was at Homestead? What is the "package to have" fora temprorary road course in early '97?