Will Power blisters MSR Houston track ANGLETON, Texas – The next generation of Champ Car World Series stars stepped to the head of the line on a breezy Texas Tuesday, showing their heels to a veteran field in the final day of Champ Car testing at MSR Houston.
Second-year driver Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) set a new track record on the new 2.38-mile road course, stopping the clocks at 1:10.040 (122.330 mph) to head a time chart that saw him followed closely by rookies Graham Rahal (#2 Newman/Haas Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) and Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull PKV Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone).
“The fact that we understand the car and how to make the car fast is the most important thing we got out of today, but it’s nice to be fastest at the end of the day,” grinned Power, winner of last year’s Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Award. “I pretty much knew what I wanted to get out of the car and the crew did a great job getting it done.”
High winds blew away yesterday’s rain and allowed teams to get a full day’s work done. Recognizing that Monday’s outing was cut short by the wet weather, Champ Car Race Operations extended the session on Tuesday, allowing most drivers to run more than 100 miles in the afternoon. Power ran 51 laps, which was second only to Jani’s 55, while 10 drivers cracked the century mark in miles completed.
Rahal (pictured right) predicted after Monday’s session that the Newman/Haas machine would be fast in drier conditions, and he proved wise beyond his 18 years after coming in just .039 seconds behind Power. Jani was less than a tenth-of-a-second behind his rookie classmate with a lap of 1:10.168 (122.107 mph), ending up with the third-best time of the test – a result he also achieved in the opening test outing in Sebring last month.
“I’m impressed with how high the talent level is here in Champ Car,” Jani said. “It’s good to know that we can run with the top guys and that we are not too far off the pace. But the team and myself, we don’t come out here to finish third, we want to win. So we have a lot more to do. I thought I could have run a 1:09 at the end because the team did a great job with the car.”
Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum, 2003 series champion Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) had what he termed ‘the worst test session of my career’ in a frustrating day that was capped when his best lap of the day – which would have been sixth-best overall – came after the checkered flag had flown and so was not officially timed.
“Nothing went right for us today and we are so far behind right now,” Tracy said. “But with everything that happened, to still pull out a decent lap at the end of the day gives us something to build on. Everybody is pretty frustrated but they don’t give any points for today, so we have to go work on being ready for Vegas.”
The two-day session ended with former Newman/Haas teammates Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) rounding out the top five. Junqueira stepped into the Coyne car on Tuesday and ended up fifth on the speed sheets with a lap of 1:10.560 (121.429 mph). Reigning Champ Car Atlantic champion Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone) had a big day as he not only ended up sixth on the time charts, he also reached an agreement with Team Australia to officially join the talented 2007 Champ Car rookie class.
The series will continue its preseason testing schedule March 7-10 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which will be the Spring Training outing for both the Champ Car World Series and the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
Tuesday session times follow (laps run figure is for the entire two-day test):
1) Will Power – #5 Team Australia – 1:10.040/122.330 mph/111 laps
2) Graham Rahal – #2 Newman/Haas Racing – 1:10:079/122.262/151 laps
3) Neel Jani – #21 Red Bull PKV Racing – 1:10:168/122.107/119 laps
4) Sebastien Bourdais – #1 McDonald’s/Newman/Haas Racing – 1:10:333/121.820/156 laps
5) Bruno Junqueira - #19 Dale Coyne Racing – 1:10.560/121.429/87 laps
6) Simon Pagenaud - #15 Team Australia – 1:10:776/121.058/91 laps
7) Nelson Philippe - #34 Conquest Racing – 1:11:035/120.167/116 laps
8) Justin Wilson – #9 CDW/RuSPORT – 1:11:179/120.373/157 laps
9) Robert Doornbos - #4 Minardi Team USA – 1:11:216/120.310/135 laps
10) Oriol Servia - #10 RuSPORT – 1:11:257/120.241/191 laps
11) Paul Tracy – #3 Indeck/Forsythe Championship Racing – 1:11:591/119.860/79 laps
12) Katherine Legge – #11 Dale Coyne Racing – 1:11:607/119.653/93 laps
13) Ryan Dalziel – #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports – 1:11:658/119.568/118 laps
14) Alex Tagliani – #8 Rocketsports Racing – 1:12:161/118.734/98 laps
15) Alex Figge – #29 Pacific Coast Motorsports – 1:13:567/116.465/115 laps