Champ Car: Dan Clarke back up to speed for Assen

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, August 30th, 2007

 
 

Dan Clarke will be back in the hot seat for the second of Champ Car’s two European races after convincing officials that he has smartened up his act.

Clarke was put on probation following a string of errors in San Jose and he went on to get his marching orders after being blamed for causing a four-car crash in the morning practice session at Zolder.

That incident left fellow Brit Justin Wilson fuming after Clarke took him out on his first lap and was described by race director Tony Cotman as “totally unacceptable”.

Cotman barred Clarke from the Belgium event and said then that he would take his time thinking about whether to extend the ban to Assen.

But today he said: “I think Dan has learned a lot in the past week and he is ready to compete again.

“During Dan’s suspension, he showed us what he’s all about. He participated in fan and media activities, helped his team and also came to race control to see how we come to our decisions.

“I hope he is more aware now that in racing small mistakes can lead to big consequences.”

Clarke was publicly backed by his team bosses at Minardi who, however, also made it clear that they supported the race director’s decision.

Speaking after the reinstatement, team co-owner Paul Stoddart said: “As we come up to one of the most important races of the year for Minardi Team USA – a home race for our lead driver, Robert Doornbos, and for the significant number of Dutch investors in the team – we really hope to put the gremlins of last weekend behind us and return to our winning ways.”

Clearly Speedy Dan could not have chosen a worse time to misbehave. And he knows it.

Stoddart’s partner Keith Wiggins added: “It’s been an interesting and fun trip back to Europe. We are looking forward to a good race at Assen and for sure it will be a big event for the entire team, and hopefully a big success as well.

“I think our strategy for the remainder of the races is key to how we finish off the season.”

And Clarke himself? None of this measured, tactful corporate-speak from him (not that the straight-talking Aussie Stoddart is usually known for it, either).

To hear him talk, you’d think he’d had the best week of his career: “I’m very glad to learn that I will be racing in Assen. It was strange watching on race day in Zolder, but it ended up being kind of fun, as I had the opportunity to do some other things and help out the team.

“I got to work the lollipop for Mario, and spend some time in Race Control with Tony Cotman. It was nice to get support from other people in the paddock, as well as from the fans, but I’m ready to get back in the car.

“I believe we can have a positive weekend and I appreciate the encouragement from the team. I will do my best to get the result that they deserve.”

Clarke expressed a wish to celebrate a win in Belgium with a big plate of waffles. Having been denied that chance, maybe he’ll be able to celebrate with some Dutch pancakes instead.

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