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Dario Franchitti Returns Home to Indycar

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Dario Franchitti
Dario Franchitti

Dario Franchitti has not raced at Surfers Paradise since 2002 and has not races an Indycar since the end of the 2006 season.

One could have forgiven the Scot for not being on the pace this weekend.  The Gold Coast track requires a special knowledge and a feel for curbs and the walls that can reward you.

Just ask Will Power.  The local driver took pole by about eight tenths of a second – a mile in this field.

But Franchitti made it to the Firestone Fast 6.  He was fifth in the first session of qualifying, third in the second session and fourth in the Fast 6.

Not a bad return, even if it is a Ganassi car.

Franchitti, however was a little concerned coming up to this race.  The 2007 Champion and the Indy 500 winner in the team that won the 2008 Title and Indy 500.

“To be honest I was a little worried coming here because I expected the cars to be fast as our team have the best cars in the paddock but I didn’t know how good I was going to be and how fast we were going to get up to speed.”

But appears that he got up to speed very quickly, an ominous sign for the race.

The Scot has won at the Gold Coast before – in 1999, in Team Green’s Reynard Honda.  That year he was battling Juan Montoya for the title and, funnily enough, Ganassi Racing.  Something Franchitti is all too aware of.

“I was thinking that…first of all I was looking at the car, when I was just about to climb in the Target car and I remember being here 10 years ago and Zanardi and I fighting out for the win.  So it was kind of weird getting in the car.”

But the battles that Franchitti has had with Ganassi have been a topic of conversation with Team Owner, Chip Ganassi too.

“When I made the deal with Chip, I made the point that for the last 10 or 11 years I have either been in front or behind the Target car all the time.”

I suspects that he will still be fighting with his teammate, Scott Dixon who was also very fast in qualifying.  Some things never change…

“I was thinking that…first of all I was looking at the car, when I was just about to climb in the Target car and I remember being here 10 years ago and Zanardi and I fighting out for the win.  So it was kind of weird getting in the car.”

But Franchitti is amongst the vast amount of Indycar drivers trying their hand at other racing.

Including the trip to NASCAR, Franchitti has also raced in the Nationwide Series, the ALMS and Grand Am.

That is something that he wants to replicate in 2009.

“I know Chip wants us to do the Daytona 24 Hours again and that is something that we are working hard on to get a couple of cars in that race.”

His ALMS experience at the Petit Le Mans was not as fruitful but through no fault of his own.  His teammate in the Patron Highcroft Acura crashed the car before he was able to race.  This also robbed him of the chance to race his brother, Marino who was competing with Dyson Racing.  But, again, he was eager to race there in 2009.

“I am talking to Duncan Dayton and the boys at Patron Highcroft to see if we can get something together – so that would be great… The little Acura was a blast to drive and I think the P1 car will be tremendous and I hopefully will get some running in that.”

But all that counts for little here.

Despite a positive start to the weekend, Franchitti is not letting himself get carried away.  He knows he is up against people who have driven the car all year.  He had just two days testing before he came to Surfers.

“I didn’t put any expectations on myself coming here, because I didn’t know how well I would go.  So tomorrow, I’ll do my best and learn and see what happens – really that is all I can do.”

“I did two days testing the car in Houston.  It took me, probably about a day before everything felt like second nature again.”

But to expect to win again first off was never on his radar, so caution still prevails and he is going into the race in a sensible frame of mind.

“I didn’t put any expectations on myself coming here, because I didn’t know how well I would go.  So tomorrow, I’ll do my best and learn and see what happens – really that is all I can do.”

But if all he is doing is learning this weekend – his competitors should fear 2009 – because Dario is back.

Interview and article by Sam Tickell on 24 October 2008