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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Cart's European refugees
Helio Castroneves celebrates victory
Castroneves is one of Cart's brightest young stars
By BBC Sport Online's motorsport editor Andrew Benson

The Champ Car series is full of drivers who cut their teeth in Europe but have ended up plying their trade on the other side of the Atlantic rather than in Formula One.

In some cases, this is because they decided to go to Cart rather than try the often difficult and far from certain road into F1.

In others, they tried F1 and left either because they had no choice, or because they were fed up dragging around at the back in below-standard teams not getting a decent break.

Memo Gidley (left) and Dario Franchitti
Gidley (left) rose in the US while Franchitti cut his teeth in Europe
Either way, most of them are every bit as good as the average F1 driver - and often better than their counterparts in America.

In fact, that is why there are so many "foreign" drivers racing in Cart.

There are, for example, nine Brazilians and only five Americans.

This is an odd situation for the US' premier single-seater series.

It may partly explain why it is comparatively unpopular in the States compared to the Nascar stock-car series, which is dominated by American drivers, many of them from the South.

And it certainly explains why Cart no longer races at Indianapolis, the country's most prestigious venue.

Best drivers outside F1

In 1996, Indy owner Tony George formed the breakaway Indy Racing League to try to promote American drivers.

But the IRL is a shadow of Cart and George has only succeeded in damaging and confusing the image of US single-seater racing.

It also robbed US fans the chance to see all of the best drivers racing in the country's most prestigious race, the Indy 500.

That, though, is another story. Either way, Cart continues to attract the best drivers outside F1 - and in some cases better drivers than there are in F1.

Here, BBC Sport Online runs down the US stars who have recognised that there is life beyond F1.


DRIVER PROFILES
Gil de Ferran (Bra)
Dario Franchitti (GB)
Michael Andretti (USA)
Kenny Brack (Swe)
Helio Castroneves (Bra)
Paul Tracy (Can)
Max Papis (Ita)
Bruno Junqueira (Bra)
Christian Fittipaldi (Bra)
Cristiano da Matta (Bra)
Roberto Moreno (Bra)
Mauricio Gugelmin (Bra)
Shinji Nakano/Tora Takagi (Jap)

Gil de Ferran (Bra)

Gil de Ferran (right) and team boss Roger Penske
De Ferran (right) with team boss Roger Penske
The reigning Cart champion is a close friend of McLaren F1 driver David Coulthard.

But he was also a tough rival of the Scot and Ferrari number two Rubens Barrichello in the British Formula 3 Championship in the early 1990s.

De Ferran, 33, was third in F3 in 1991, behind Barrichello and Coulthard while developing a new car for Reynard. He won it the following year.

After two years in Formula 3000, in which he was third overall in 1994, De Ferran made a new life for himself in Cart.

This garrulous, amusing and intelligent former engineering student won the title last year, his first season with the excellent Penske team, and could do so again this year, even though he has yet to win a race this season.

A real contender for victory at Rockingham
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Dario Franchitti (GB)

Dario Franchitti
Franchitti nearly won the Cart title in 1999
Franchitti, a former protégé of Mercedes-Benz, could have ended up in F1 if he had made different career choices.

Instead, after racing in British Formula 3, and then in touring cars with Mercedes, he moved to Cart, where he has become one of the top drivers.

The Scot, now 28, narrowly missed out on winning the title in 1999. He scored the same number of points as Juan Pablo Montoya, who has just won the Italian Formula One Grand Prix for Williams, but lost the crown on a countback of wins.

Franchitti has been less consistent since then, but remains a front-runner on the track and a headline maker off it - he is engaged to Hollywood actress Ashley Judd.

He flirted with F1 by doing a test for Jaguar in 2000, after which he was not offered a drive. Continues to say would like to do it one day, but the chances look slim.
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Michael Andretti (USA)

Michael Andretti
Andretti is Cart's most successful driver
The son of the motor-racing legend Mario Andretti, Michael is the most successful driver in Champs Cars in terms of race wins, with 41.

Now 38, Andretti had an ill-starred time when he raced in F1 in 1993.

He came to Europe with high expectations, but struggled, as most would, to match the pace of his team-mate at McLaren - the late, great Ayrton Senna.

McLaren sacked him before the end of the season, but Andretti has long since left that behind him.

Michael is not as much of a force as he was in Cart, but on his day he is tough to beat.
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Kenny Brack (Swe)

Kenny Brack
Brack is leading the championship this year
Brack leads the championship heading into Rockingham, and in only his second season in Cart has generally been the most consistent front-runner this year.

Brack won the Formula 3000 title in Europe in 1996, but was then at nearly 30 a little too old to consider breaking into F1.

He went to America instead, where age is less of a barrier, and won the rival Indy Racing League before moving to Cart with Team Rahal in 2000.

With a contract for next year with Ganassi Racing, champions in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, Brack looks set to be a fixture at the front in Cart for several years to come.
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Helio Castroneves (Bra)

Helio Castroneves
A smile is never far from Castroneves' face
De Ferran's team-mate at Penske, Castroneves is a former protégé of Jackie Stewart, for whose Formula 3 team he raced in 1995, when he was runner-up in the championship.

He moved to America the following year and has since established himself as one of the fastest and most popular drivers in the series.

With a smile never far from his face, Castroneves, 26, could also finish this year as champion.
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Paul Tracy (Can)

Paul Tracy
Tracy is fast - but wild
An occasionally bonkers Canadian who has somehow never quite delivered everything his talent deserves.

Tracy raced briefly in Formula Ford in Britain in 1986, and had an F1 test with Benetton in 1994.

Overweight and larger than life, Tracy is a potential winner everywhere if he can keep it together and stay on the road.
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Max Papis (Ita)

Max Papis
Papis had a bad time in F1 - but has won races in Cart
Papis had an ill-starred time in F1 with Arrows in 1995, which was enough to disillusion him about the prospect of ever making it in Europe.

Not highly rated before he went to America, this immensely friendly and jovial Italian has to some extent proved the doubters wrong, winning two races.

If the mood takes him, and he gets the car the way he wants it, Papis is a potential race-winner, as he has proved already this year.
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Bruno Junqueira (Bra)

Bruno Junqueira wins at Elkhart Lake this year
Junqueira won at Elkhart Lake this year
Came agonisingly close to a race seat with Williams in 2000, when he was narrowly shaded by Jenson Button in a shoot-out for the seat alongside Ralf Schumacher now occupied by former Cart champion Juan Pablo Montoya.

Williams nevertheless rate Junqueira highly, and recommended him to the Ganassi squad in place of Montoya. The 24-year-old has proved their faith correct with a win in his rookie season.
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Christian Fittipaldi (Bra)

Christian Fittipaldi
Fittipaldi has motor racing in his blood
Formula 3000 champion in Europe in 1991, Fittipaldi raced in F1 for a few years with minor teams like Arrows and Minardi before giving it up as a bad job and moving to America.

He has only won two of his 111 races, but this scion of the famous Brazilian racing family - his uncle is the two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi - is usually there or thereabouts.
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Cristiano da Matta (Bra)

Cristiano da Matta
Da Matta drives for the crack Newman-Haas team
After impressing in Formula 3 in England, this friendly Brazilian decided to join the legions of Brazilians in Cart rather than try to break into F1.

Now racing for the top-line Newman-Haas team, 28-year-old Da Matta has won races and is expected to be a front-runner for years to come.
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Roberto Moreno (Bra)

Roberto Moreno
Moreno has been around for over 20 years
Moreno just seems to go on and on. Immensely popular for his happy-go-lucky approach to life, this tiny Brazilian made his Grand Prix with Lotus as long ago as 1982.

He won the 1988 Formula 3000 title, and raced in F1 with Benetton in 1990-1, before losing his drive to one Michael Schumacher.

Even at 42, Moreno continues to embarrass his younger rivals wit the occasional outstanding race performance - he won at Vancouver this year. He vows to continue racing as long as he can.
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Mauricio Gugelmin (Bra)

This veteran raced in F1 as long ago as 1988. British Formula 3 champion in 1985, Gugelmin, a close friend of the late Ayrton Senna, turned to Cart after leaving F1 in 1992.

He has earned a reputation as a steady, technically-minded driver, but not the fastest or most aggressive man on the track.

And although coming to the end of his career at 38, Gugelmin nevertheless has proved that he still has some good races in him.
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Shinji Nakano, Toranosuke Takagi (Jap)

Toranosuke Takagi
Takagi - occasionally fast
Two journeymen Japanese who impressed very occasionally in their brief F1 careers in the late 1990s. Both can be quick on their day, which does not come very often.
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