JULY 9, 2001
Something goes right for Tom
TOM WALKINSHAW has not been having a good year in Formula 1 with his Arrows team but over in the United States things are looking a bit better with the TWR-built Nissan Infiniti engine winning the Ameristar Casino and Hotel 200, the first Indy Racing League event at the new Kansas Speedway. It is the engine's first victory of the year but only its third in three years of IRL competition against the General Motors Oldsmobile Aurora engine.
IRL has been dominated by the Oldsmobile Aurora engine since 1997 but a change of rules this year made the Infiniti V8 more competitive. This engine is a development of the 5-liter engine designed by Nissan for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1999. This was then modified for IRL in 2000 and reduced to 3.5-liter capacity by TWR's Race Engine Division. Since then Infiniti engines have won three races: two with Eddie Cheever's Dallara and one with Robbie Buhl's Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's G Force.
The increase in competitiveness of the engine this year is in part due to more involvement from Nissan's parent company Renault which recently despatched former Renault Sport technical director Bernard Dudot to the United States to keep an eye on the Nissan program.
Cheever, who has now scored five wins in his IRL career, was only two-tenths of a second ahead of IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. at the end of the race.
Cheever said that "I had the best equipment and to win would not have been acceptable" and he paid tribute to the power of his engine.
"I had a secret weapon behind me today in the Infiniti," he said diplomatically. "The last time I had equipment as competitive as this was when I was running for Renault in Formula 1 in 1982."
Walkinshaw is hoping that the success will attract more customers for his engines while Nissan hopes to continue the success so that the firm becomes the first Japanese company to win the Indianapolis 500 - America's most famous race - before Toyota gets any momentum behind its IRL engine program next year.
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