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Pruett wins accident-filled Australian race

April 6, 1997

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (AP) _ Scott Pruett took advantage of a collision Sunday between Paul Tracy and Alex Zanardi to win the incident-marred Australian IndyCarnival CART PPG Indy-car race.

Pruett was running fifth when Zanardi, who won a record sixth consecutive pole position Saturday, and Tracy collided on the 42nd lap. It knocked Tracy, who was leading, out of the race, while Zanardi stayed in.

Pruett, starting seventh off the grid and driving a Brahma Reynard Ford, was able to weave his way through the traffic jam to win the race shortened to two hours of elapsed time _ 57 laps overall instead of the scheduled 65 _ because of numerous caution periods.

Greg Moore was second and Michael Andretti finished third in the race over the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise temporary street course. Zanardi was fourth, Gilles de Ferran fifth and Andre Ribeiro sixth.

Tracy had taken the lead from Zanardi on the 19th lap after starting the race in his backup car. The race was restarted after a collision at the start of the second lap between Christian Fittipaldi and de Ferran.

Fittipaldi broke his leg in the accident and was scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday night. The Brazilian was trapped inside his car after the accident in which he was clipped from behind by de Ferran, who returned to the race in his backup car after the restart. Medical and emergency officials removed Fittipaldi from his car after about 10 minutes.

Fittipaldi, with an oxygen mask over his face, was conscious when taken by stretcher to the trackside hospital. After being stabilized, he was taken to hospital by road ambulance, where he was scheduled to have surgery Sunday night for a compound fracture to his right leg.

``I remember everything,″ Fittipaldi said from his hospital bed. ``De Ferran hit me from behind and I hit the wall in front of the pit. he second hit was completely unbelievable, I went in head-on. I couldn’t feel anything in my right leg, so I was pretty worried.″

Parts of Fittipaldi’s car flew around the track at the end of the straightaway, with bouncing tires coming dangerously close to going over the wall and into the spectators.

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