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SEPTEMBER 21, 2001

CART prepares for second European race

LESS than a week after the first ever CART oval race on European soil at the Lausitzring near Berlin, CART prepares for its next race at the new Rockingham oval in Northamptonshire, England.

Of course this is a much subdued paddock for the US-based series after the terrorist attacks on the United States and the horrific accident that saw popular Italian driver Alex Zanardi suffer severe injuries while leading the Lausitzring race. The former F1 driver and double CART champion has had both legs amputated above the knee after spinning his Mo Nunn racing Reynard into the path of Alex Tagliani's Forsythe-run car.

Zanardi has been in intensive care in Berlin since the accident, kept in a medically-induced coma by the doctors there until his body is able to cope with the results of the accident. "Everything is going the way we want. He's stable. We found nothing bad at all. It doesn't look as if we should expect something serious," said Dr. Walter Schaffartzik, head of the team treating the stricken driver.

The eventual winner in Germany was championship leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, who holds an 11-point advantage over Penske's title-defending driver Gil de Ferran. The home support is likely to be centered on Team Green driver Dario Franchitti, the Scottish racer who was formerly a protege of both Sir Jackie Stewart and Mercedes-Benz.

Zanardi's car will not compete at Rockingham, although his team mate Tony Kanaan will appear. Said Nunn: "Alex's wife Daniela would very much like the show to go on with the team this weekend at Rockingham. She feels there is unfinished business to tend to." Zanardi's crew has been sent home however, as they are so upset that Nunn has said they would be a 'safety risk'.

The main obstacle that CART must now face is the British climate which, in September, is rarely tropical. Oval races need to be held in absolute dry weather on safety grounds and today's Free Practice for the race, scheduled for Saturday, was aborted after overnight rain.

Intensive work by the Rockingham officials saw the British version of NASCAR, called ASCAR, take to the track in order to further dry the asphalt and it appears likely that qualifying will be waylaid from Friday to a Saturday morning session but the grid will form in championship order with Brack and de Ferran at the head of the rolling field.