Drivers call off practice as rain curtails Oval debut

The launch of CART oval racing in Britain barely got off the ground yesterday as wet patches on this £50m North-amptonshire circuit forced drivers to abandon the first practice session for tomorrow's 500 race.

The launch of CART oval racing in Britain barely got off the ground yesterday as wet patches on this £50m North-amptonshire circuit forced drivers to abandon the first practice session for tomorrow's 500 race.

The drivers managed only 10 laps at speeds of no more than 100mph before concluding that the track was too dangerous to proceed with normal running.

Racing is never held on ovals in the wet, and rain delayed practice for five and a half hours. Jet dryers and rescue vehicles were used in the operation to bring CART cars onto a British track for the first time.

However, those few laps, run at less than half the normal speed and behind a pace car, were enough to convince drivers that they had to call off practice for the day because water was seeping through the tarmac.

Michael Andretti, one of the most distinguished members of the CART cast, said: "There was no way we could run on that. The problem is that you can't see the weepers until you are on top of them and at speed you could be in big trouble. It's like driving in winter and hitting a patch of ice you can't see.

"The facility itself is great. The surface looks really smooth. The straights are short but that probably makes the track safer. We need a day of practice to be ready for the race, but we could manage with an hour on Saturday morning.''

Andretti and his colleagues are still shaken by Alessandro Zanardi's horrific accident in Germany last weekend but Dario Franchitti, the Scottish driver anxious for CART racing to win over the British public, maintained this was no over-reaction. "It's not a case of people being a bit scared. You just cannot run on a track with damp patches. Bringing CART over here is a big thing for us, and everybody has been working really hard trying to dry the track, but we had no choice.

"I never got above third gear and 100mph. We've got to come up with a solution to the problem so that we can get out there tomorrow.''

Even as Franchitti spoke, contractors were being summoned to drill two 50ft-drainage shafts in the hope of finding that solution. A circuit spokesman said: "The problem here is the clay beneath the track surface and the fact that the temperature is only 11 deg C. We need to dry up the weepers, and these shafts have worked at American circuits. The work will be completed overnight.''

Zanardi was told in a Berlin hospital yesterday that he had lost both his legs in the accident but he said he feared he was dying and told his wife: "I am happy because I have you and our son.''

Doctors said that the Italian, who lost 70 per cent of his blood, had been 10 minutes from death. He is expected to be transferred from Germany to a rehabilitation clinic in Italy at the end of the month.

* The Czech driver Tomas Enge will compete in the final two races of the Formula One season, at Indianapolis on Sunday week and in Japan two weeks later, after the Brazilian Luciano Burti was told not to race until the end of December following his 170mph crash at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps earlier this month.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness