The sixteenth part of my latest feature.
My next series of features will be looking at each driver who competed in my first ever major international motorsport race, the 2001 Rockingham 500, the first time the American CART Championship had raced in the UK since 1979.
Having been confirmed the previous July, the race was held in front of 38,000 people who witnessed, at the time, the fastest ever laps on a British circuit, with hitting speeds of over 215 mph. It was also the first full length oval race in the UK since before the war, when cars roared round Brooklands.
I was seven when I watched the action at a very cold Rockingham, I remember my parents either side of me keeping me warm. However, I also remember the excitement of watching a major motorsport event trackside for the first time, having been to the official opening that May. The speed the cars hit was mind blowing and something I can still recall now.
The race was won by Gil de Ferran who executed a superb move on the last lap to beat Swede Kenny Brack, with fellow Brazilians Cristiano da Matta and Helio Castroneves finishing third and fourth.
Michael Andretti finished fifth ahead of his teammate Paul Tracy in sixth, with 1996 CART Champion Jimmy Vasser in seventh. The fourth Brazilian in the field Tony Kanaan was eighth ahead of home favourite Dario Franchitti.
Spaniard Oriol Servia rounded out the top ten for Sigma Autosport, while just outside the top ten, Italian Max Papis came home eleventh. After Papis in eleventh was Townsend Bell with his Patrick Racing teammate Roberto Moreno just behind in thirteenth. After the Patrick Racing duo of Bell and Moreno was Canadian Alex Tagliani. After Tagliani was his Forsythe Racing teammate Bryan Herta, who rounded out the top 15.
Behind Herta in sixteenth was the third consecutive Forsythe Racing entry of Patrick Carpentier, who was competing in his fourth season for the team.
Prior to his time in the CART series, Patrick had worked his way up the junior formulas, making his car debut in 1986, contesting the Canadian Formula Ford 2000 championship, winning his first single seater race in 1989. He remained in the season until 1992 when Patrick moved to the Toyota Atlantic Championship, winning once, ending the year eleventh, despite only contesting in five rounds of the season.
After various part time seasons in championships Patrick contested the Toyota Atlantic Championship on a full time basis for the first time in 1995, winning twice, finishing the season third. It was only the beginning in the championship for Patrick as 1996 saw the Canadian dominate the championship, winning nine of the twelve races that year for Lynx Racing, claiming the title by 90 points.
Patrick’s dominating caught the eye of the top teams around, graduating to the CART championship in 1997 for Bettenhausen Motorsports in a Reynard 97I Chassis. Patrick immediately impressed in America’s premier single-seater category, achieving a best result of second at St Louis. His strong performances ensured he won the 1997 Rookie of the Year award despite missing the final three rounds of the season through injury.
For 1998, Patrick joined Canadian based team Player’s Forsythe Racing, for whom he would remain with for seven seasons. He joined the team after they expanded to two cars, ensuring he was partnered alongside compatriot Greg Moore. After an indifferent 1998, 1999 saw Patrick return to the podium at his home race in Vancouver, prior to Moore’s tragic accident at the end of the 1999 season, resulting in Carpentier becoming team leader for 2000, with fellow compatriot Alex Tagliani joining in the second entry.
Another sole podium was Patrick’s return for 2000, ending the season eleventh in which he missed the first two rounds of the season through injury once more. 2001 was a breakthrough season for Patrick however as he took his first victory in the CART series, beating Dario Franchitti to the win at the Michigan 500. It was his most successful season to date, ending the year tenth in the standings, adding three additional podiums to his tally as well as his first victory.
Similar to his junior career, following Patrick’s breakthrough season he went onto have a hugely successful following season, as in 2002, he won a further two times as well as a further three podiums once more. His results saw him finish in his best position to date, ending the year third in the standings, only behind Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Janqueira.
2002 was the last season of the Carpentier, Tagliani partnership as for 2003, Patrick was joined at Forsythe Racing by fellow Canadian, Paul Tracy, who joined from Team Green, with the team becoming Andretti Team Green in the Indy Racing League. In comparison to Tracy, Patrick had a disappointing 2003, finishing the season fifth with a single victory while Paul Tracy went onto win his first CART title. It was a disappointing blow for Patrick who was nearly dropped by Forsythe Racing in favour of Mexican Rodolfo Laving however the team voted to run three cars accommodating the trio due to Patrick’s marketability in Canada.
2004 would prove to be Patrick’s final season in the now called Champ Car series, in which he finished third once more, before moving to the rival Indy Racing League for Cheever Racing alongside Alex Barron. His debut season in the series was a relative success, finishing on the podium twice finishing tenth in the standings, just above his teammate Barron in eleventh. It was a season which promised so much more for Patrick, his oval expertise is what drew him to IndyCar with their season predominantly contested on ovals however uncompetitive Toyota engines let him and Cheever Racing down.
Due to Cheever Racing’s mid table positioning, the team lost their Red Bull backing resulting in the outfit’s scaling back of its IndyCar program, leaving Patrick without a drive.
It ensured Patrick made the switch from open-wheel racing to stock car racing, making his debut in CASCAR, Canadian NASCAR, in 2006 for Dave Jacobs Racing, contesting his first race for the team at Cayuga Speedway, finishing sixth after starting twenty-first. Prior to his stock car debut, Patrick did have one last stint in single-seaters, representing Canada in the inaugural A1 GP season, sharing the drive with Sean McIntosh, a fantastic driver that me and my dad used to watch race in the Formula Renault UK Championship.
Patrick’s best result in the series was a fifth at Laguna Seca in the penultimate round of the season.
Having made his debut in stock cars the season before, 2007 saw Patrick make his debut in NASCAR for Valvoline Evernham Racing, competing in three races at the end of the season, having made his NASCAR Busch Series (Xfinity as it is now known) debut earlier in the year.
As well as making his debut in NASCAR, Patrick also made his debut in the Grand American Rolex Series, racing for SAMAX for the season alongside Ryan Dalziel in a Pontiac Riley. The duo, along with other drivers Darren Manning and Milka Duno throughout the season finished the year thirty-first overall with a best result of second in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
It was Patrick’s only season in the series as he remained in NASCAR full time following his foray into the championship the year before, remaining with Evernham for 2008 alongside Elliot Sadler. Although Patrick struggled with the new Car of Tomorrow, he did achieve his only pole position in the series at New Hampshire however he failed to finish higher than fourteenth ensuring he was replaced at the team before the end of the season.
He remained a part-time driver in NASCAR for teams such as Tommy Baldwin Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing until he announced his returned from motorsport on the 20th August 2011. Despite announcing his retirement from motorsport, Patrick has still competing in the occasional race, raising money for various children’s charities in the process.
Like many natural racing drivers, giving up the thrill of competing is often a difficult process, and it was one Patrick struggled with too. Following his retirement from full time driving, Patrick started a home-renovation business around the Las Vegas area however when the economic downturn hit, this affected his new business, ensuring he returned to motorsport as a NASCAR pundit for RDS, a French speaking sports channel in Canada.
As well as his commitments for RDS, Patrick has continued to drive in various championships although since 2016 this has slowly started to fade away and Patrick has embraced his retirement.
It was fantastic to see Patrick race when I was younger as he was a driver I had heard of before making the trip to Rockingham as a seven-year-old. I will always remember his bright blue Forsythe Racing Reynard, a car that I feel is synonymous with Patrick.
I sincerely hope he is enjoying and embracing his time after motorsport.
Pictures: www.motorsportimages.com, www.racer.com