MOTOR RACING: Indy 500 falls to a famous name

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The Independent Online

Jacques Villeneuve overcame a two-lap penalty to win the Indianapolis 500 yesterday after his fellow Canadian, Scott Goodyear, was penalised near the end of the race, also for a pace car violation

Villeneuve, the 24-year-old son of the late Formula One driver, Gilles Villeneuve, averaged 153.616 miles per hour in a Reynard-Ford Cosworth to finish 2.4 seconds ahead of Brazil's Christian Fittipaldi, also in a Reynard-Ford Cosworth.

Fittipaldi, like Villeneuve, has motor racing in his blood - his uncle Emerson Fittipaldi won the Indy 500 twice. The American Bobby Rahal, the winner here in 1986, finished third in a Lola Mercedes-Benz.

Despite five crashes there was only one serious injury, when the veteran American Stan Fox smacked the wall head-on. He was taken to hospital for surgery for a head injury and his condition was listed as serious.

In a race slowed by nine cautions, pit stop strategy played a big part in determining the outcome, and officials of the United States Auto Club, the sanctioning body, came under criticism for calling the penalties.

Villeneuve had led from lap 36 to lap 44 only to be penalised for failing to line up behind the pace car. He passed the pace car twice - his team said that the first time he was waved on by the pace car but, the second time, team members did not know he was in first place and did not notify him that therefore he had to line up behind the pace car.

The speedy Villeneuve passed slower cars and used pit-stop strategy and fuel economy to get back his two lost laps and ran 11th on the lead lap during the yellow-flag period at the 120-lap mark of the 200-lap race.

Meanwhile, a race was developing with 50 laps to go between Goodyear, in a Reynard Honda, and the American, Scott Pruett, in a Lola-Ford.

After the seventh of nine cautions, on lap 163, the leaders made their final pit stops and it appeared there would be a 30-lap sprint race to the end. Villeneuve was a distant third at the time. However, the showdown was spoiled when Pruett crashed on lap 185 coming out of turn two. As Villeneuve closed up behind his countryman the pace car came out in preparation for the final segment.

The pace car appeared to slow in turn four, Goodyear accelerated past, and officials called for a stop-and-go penalty. Goodyear did not pit and was dropped one lap on the scoring system. Villeneuve then cruised to his third IndyCar victory.

INDY 500 (Indianapolis) Leading finishers: 1 J Villeneuve (Can); Reynard- Ford Cosworth; 2 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Reynard-Ford Cosworth; 3 B Rahal (US) Lola-Mercedes-Benz.