Dan Clarke, back behind the wheel after a one-race suspension, provided the only sparkle in a generally disappointing day for the Minardi USA team.
The young Englishman set the fastest lap in the race and later praised his mechanics for working through the night to send him out in what appeared to be a space ship rather than a racing car.
Sadly for his team, he and Dutch team-mate Robert Doornbos were forced to surrender strong positions in the closing stages of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Holland because of the need to refuel.
Despite the disappointing final position, the team had nothing but praise for his race performance: “‘Speedy’ Dan was on a mission this weekend,” they said in a post-race statement.
“He very quietly moved through the field once the race got under way, climbing as high as fourth at one point, and was on several occasions the fastest car on the track. Unfortunately, he had to make a ‘splash-and-go’ stop on lap 64 and fell from 5th to 11th.
“He didn’t give up, however, and turned the fastest lap of the race with three to go. Even though the result wasn’t there, Dan drove a great race and the crew did an amazing job in the pits.”
Clarke, who eventually finished two places ahead of his team-mate, said: “The car was real good – it was like a spaceship! The No 4 crew has done a wonderful job over the two weeks of this Champ Car European Tour, and even pulled an all-nighter to ensure our car was in the best possible shape.
“For me, the most positive thing to come out of this race is that I succeeded in getting the monkey of the last race off my back. I’m definitely coming away from these two races a wiser and stronger person.
“I would like to thank Tony Cotman for giving me the chance to race here in Assen and prove to those people who had quite a bit to say after Zolder that, strategy permitting, we can be right there in terms of pace.
“We may not have achieved the result we would have liked today, but I take great pleasure from our performance, and from the fact we set the fastest lap of the race.”