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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
De Ferran wins Indy 500
Gil de Ferran takes the chequered flag at the end of the Indy 500
De Ferran takes the chequered flag for his Indy win
Gil de Ferran pipped Penske team-mate and fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves to claim victory in a thrilling Indianapolis 500.

De Ferran held his nerve over the last six laps to deny his compatriot a third straight victory in the event.

Tony Kanaan finished third for Andretti Green Racing to complete a Brazilian clean sweep of the podium.

It was De Ferran's first competitive drive since sustaining concussion and a fractures in his neck in a crash at an Indy Racing League event at Phoenix in March.

"You always dream of winning a race like this," said De Ferran. "I have won championships but this is one of the most prestigious.

"Words escape me right now. When I crossed the line I don't know what was going on in my head, certainly coming back from the accident.

"I had a great feeling of pride for belonging to this organisation."

Castroneves was generous in defeat - up to a point.

"No doubt about it, he deserves it," he said. "I don't know if he deserves it more than me, but that's the way it goes."

Dan Wheldon's bid to become the first Briton since Graham Hill 37 years ago to win the race ended with a frightening accident.

The 24-year-old looked set for a strong finish before crashing on lap 186 of 200, his car flying through the air before landing upside down.

Wheldon emerged unscathed but had to watch from the pits as De Ferran took the victory spoils.

Michael Andretti
It just wasn't meant to be
Michael Andretti on his early exit
De Ferran passed Castroneves for the lead as his team-mate was attempting to negotiate a lapped car on a restart on lap 170 and the older man stayed in front through two more restarts.

The emotional victor clutched his helmet with both hands after reaching Victory Lane, then - wincing from his earlier back injury - stood and threw his arms into the air in triumph.

It was the second time in three years that owner Roger Penske's cars had finished one-two at the Brickyard.

There was no fairytale finish to Michael Andretti's illustrious career when engine problems forced the former Cart champion out after 94 laps.

"I'm disappointed, yes, but happy, too," he said. "I really appreciate all the support for everyone out there all these years. It just wasn't meant to be."

Wheldon, the first Englishman since Nigel Mansell in 1994 to start the 500, was in second place under yellow flags following Billy Boat's engine failure.

Dan Wheldon's car goes airborne after hitting the wall on the third turn
Wheldon somersaults his way out of the Indy 500
At the restart Wheldon held position but Castroneves pulled clear, although the green flag racing did not last long with Sarah Fisher - the only woman in the field - spinning into the wall a handful of laps later.

Wheldon dropped back to 12th on his first pit stop - under yellow because of Fisher's crash - before moving up to eighth after the third caution of the afternoon on lap 53.

When the race finally restarted it was green for only half a lap as Richie Hearn hit the wall and forced Jaques Lazier to spin off in avoidance.

Former Grand Prix driver Shinji Nakano ran over his mechanic at a pit stop while Airton Dare caused yet another yellow when he smashed into the wall.

But Wheldon's race ended in dramatic fashion on lap 186 when he lost the back end of his car on the exit of turn two and smashed into the concrete retaining wall.

Air got under his chassis, sending him flying through the air before landing upside down.

He was eventually rescued by safety crews and able to jump from his wrecked car unscathed.




SEE ALSO
Greatest win for recovering De Ferran
26 May 03  |  Motorsport
Indy struggles to complete field
19 May 03  |  Motorsport
Castroneves claims Indy pole
11 May 03  |  Motorsport
Luyendyk gives 500 a miss
15 May 03  |  Motorsport

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