Flying start for Franchitti

Indycar

After crashing during Saturday’s practice session, Dario Franchitti bounced back to drive a perfect race at St Petersburg on Sunday. The double IndyCar champion took the lead from pole winner Will Power early in the race and drove away to win the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener in the streets of the Florida city. Once the race got underway nobody could match Franchitti’s pace and the Scotsman – a recent Motor Sport Hall of Fame inductee – won comfortably from Power and Tony Kanaan. It was the first time Dario has won the opening race of the season and the 27th victory of his IndyCar career, pushing him into a tie with Johnny Rutherford for 10th on the all-time winners’ list.

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“I want to thank the Target team for keeping fighting,” said Franchitti. “They definitely taught me never to give up. What a brilliant team! Anybody who questions their fire and motivation to go for it saw what we did today. The will to win goes right through the team.”

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Power was Franchitti’s primary championship rival last year and is expected to play the same role this season. “Dario was so quick,” he said. “I didn’t have the car for him. He was just crazy fast.”

A multi-car melee at turn one on the opening lap seriously delayed Franchitti’s team-mate Scott Dixon and Power’s team-mates Hélio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. The collision also eliminated Andretti Autosport’s drivers Marco Andretti, Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Young Andretti appeared to be the culprit.

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It took a few more tries to get the race going and among those to profit from a series of early accidents were Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro. In his first race with KV Racing Kanaan came through to finish third, chasing hard after Power for much of the distance. But in the closing laps he was fully occupied keeping de Silvestro behind him. The Swiss woman drove a great race for Keith Wiggins’s little HVM team to finish hard on Kanaan’s tail and well clear of fifth-placed Takuma Sato.

So Franchitti has cast himself once again as IndyCar’s title favourite. Can he win a third consecutive crown and a fourth in a row for Chip Ganassi’s team? It’s a tall order, but the erudite Scotsman clearly is up for the challenge.

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