Bourdais leads practice 2 at Sebring
Katherine Legge ushered in the Panoz DP01 era in Champ Car on a warm day in Sebring, Florida, becoming the first driver to turn a testing lap for a team in a new Panoz DP01 Champ Car.
She was soon joined by 12 other drivers in the first full day of 2007 preseason testing for the Champ Car World Series, but despite all the new drivers, teams, cars and sponsors in the series, the man at the top of the time charts remained the same.
Reigning series champion Sebastien Bourdais took his McDonald’s-sponsored Newman/Haas Racing machine to the top of the charts in the first day of testing, posting a best lap of 51.024 seconds (117.756 mph). His time was more impressive given the fact that it was just one second off the unofficial Champ Car record for the 1.8-mile Sebring short course in what was the first time that any Champ Car team had put their cars on the track since receiving them on December 20.
“I was surprised myself when the time came up on the dash, but obviously there is a lot more in it as it was six or seven laps into my run when I got the best lap,” Bourdais said. We know we’re not going to get it all figured out in 50 laps. I think we have some bugs to work out still but the car has a lot of potential.”
Bourdais was nearly six-tenths of a second quicker than his nearest competitor, who was Red Bull PKV Racing rookie Neel Jani who hung a best time of 51.620 seconds (116.397 mph), but the rest of the field was much tighter. In fact, the margin between first and second on the time charts was larger than the gap between second-placed Jani and ninth-placed Legge, who was fastest in the morning session today.
“It was my first time in the new car and my first time at Sebring as well, so I’m happy with what we got done today,” Jani said. “We had some problems with braking and we tried a lot of things, but all things considered, it was a productive day.”
Legge ran with Dale Coyne Racing today in her first test day, turning a series-high 69 laps and leading the first session of the day. She made improvements in the second session and ended the outing with a best lap of 52.110 seconds (115.302 mph).
“It was a solid and successful day for us,” Legge said. “The car feels great. The paddle shifters are very nice and the rear of the car feels a lot more stable at high speeds, making it a little more fun to drive.”
Forsythe Championship Racing’s Paul Tracy was third on the day, running his first laps since Australia owing to his accident that kept him out of the 2006 season finale. RuSPORT pilots Mario Dominguez and CDW-sponsored Justin Wilson completed the top five with 1996 series champion Jimmy Vasser posting the day’s sixth-best time. Vasser ran a full day in the PKV machine to help with data acquisition as the remainder of the driver lineup sorts itself out. The veteran posted 44 laps on the day with a best time of 51.814 seconds (115.961 mph).
It was great to be back in the car and it really didn’t feel like I had been away that long,” Vasser said. “It feels like a Champ Car, but newer. There’s still some things we need to work on with it but it’s a beautiful car and the fans are going to love it.”
The top two drivers in last year’s Champ Car Atlantic Championship standings made their first step up today as Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal took testing laps with Team Australia and Newman/Haas respectively. Rahal had the better of it today, posting the seventh-best time while Pagenaud was just .152 seconds adrift.
“I’m shocked it’s as quick as it is already,” Rahal said. “Everything went smooth with the test today. We only had one problem with a brake duct which took away a bit of afternoon session but I have to give credit to Panoz because the car ran all day. The car is a lot of fun to drive. Now we just have to go find the (lap) time.”
Minardi Team USA tested with Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos, who took the chance to run for a full day at the invitation of team owner Paul Stoddart. The Formula 1 tester hung 54 laps on the board and was excited about what he had seen in the new DP01.
“I was very curious to see how the new car was and how it felt in comparison to the Lola, which I tested at Houston a month ago,” told Doornbos. “It’s a lot of fun to drive and I think I would really like to be over here to compete this year. In Formula 1, it’s all about the equipment and sometimes you just have to be happy if you can beat your teammate. Here you have a chance to win if you have a good team and they work well together and that is where I want to be.”
The test will continue tomorrow at Sebring as the Champ Cars share track time with the American LeMans Series. The test wraps up Thursday with a full day of testing scheduled.
Pos Driver # Team Lap Time Leader
1 S. Bourdais 1 Newman/Haas Racing 51.024
2 N. Jani 21 PKV Racing 51.620 0.596
3 P. Tracy 3 Forsythe Championship Racing 51.708 0.684
4 M. Dominguez 10 RuSPORT 51.717 0.693
5 J. Wilson 9 RuSPORT 51.773 0.749
6 J. Vasser 12 PKV Racing 51.814 0.790
7 G. Rahal 2 Newman/Haas Racing 51.837 0.813
8 S. Pagenaud 5X Team Australia 51.989 0.965
9 K. Legge 11 Dale Coyne Racing 52.110 1.086
10 A. Tagliani 8 Rocketsports Racing 52.854 1.830
11 R. Doornbos 4X CTE Racing - HVM 52.912 1.888
12 R. Dalziel 28 Pacific Coast Motorsports 54.048 3.024 Champ Car