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DATE News (chronologically)
03/10/07
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Team PR from final day of Champ Car testing  
Minardi Team USA
Minardi Team USA and driver, Robert Doornbos, took up today where they left off yesterday at the Champ Car World Series Spring Training event at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. The Dutch driver was again among the first on track at the start of the morning session, and rapidly up to speed. Running quickly and consistently, he amassed 53 laps, recording a best lap of 1 min 06.959 secs, just half a second off the time of pace-setter, and reigning Series champion, Sebastien Bourdais. The pattern continued in the afternoon, with Doornbos fourth fastest at one stage, but then on lap 21, his car left the track and hit the barriers at Turn 6. Fortunately, the driver emerged unscathed, but with only a relatively short time remaining until the end of the session, it was not possible to recover the car and effect repairs. Before the incident, Doornbos had been working through a chassis set-up program on the Panoz DP01, carrying out several longer runs aimed at assessing the car’s behavior on cold tires and with differing fuel loads. Despite the premature end to the day, Minardi Team USA personnel remain pleased with the progress made during the two-day Spring Training session, and remain on course in terms of their pre-season preparations. 

Robert Doornbos “I guess you could say we finished the day with a bang! Despite that, though, it has definitely been a positive two days. Right from the beginning of the test, we were on the pace, and we started strongly again this morning, eventually getting into the 1 minute 6 second bracket, which only six other drivers managed. We worked on the set-up, to try and find a good direction, and the guys made some additional changes during the break. After lunch, we were doing some cold-tire running, in order to get an understanding of how the car would feel after a pit stop, and on about the fifth lap of the run, I had a ‘moment’ and ended up in the barriers. It’s unfortunate, and I’m sorry for causing extra work for the mechanics, who now have to repair the car, but it doesn’t affect my motivation in any way. Between the first test, at Sebring, and Spring Training here at Laguna Seca, we’ve been able to reduce the gap to the leaders from 1.5 seconds to 0.4 seconds, which is a good result. I feel very positive about the team, who have worked hard to improve the car, and I hope I’ve also contributed to making it go faster. There is still some work to do, but I think we should be happy with what we have achieved so far.”

Keith Wiggins, Co-owner, Minardi Team USA “The verdict on today remains much the same as it did yesterday, in that despite car and driver suffering an off-course excursion, we are continuing to go in the right direction. The team is working well, we are making satisfactory technical progress, and Robert has been running in the top five during this test, and is on the pace, so I’m reasonably content. It would have been beneficial, of course, if he could have completed the afternoon session, as he lost the opportunity to post a good time near the end, and also to take part in some Champ Car-style pit stop practice. That said, although it’s always nice to come away from a test with a good lap time and without any crashes, inevitably in racing there will be accidents, and they don’t deter us from our goal of making progress. Now it’s onwards and upwards to Las Vegas.”

Newman/Haas/Lanigan
Sebastien Bourdais, No. 1 McDonald’s Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone: “It’s great that we were able to get under the track time set by the 2006 F1 car. We used Push to Pass but it’s only good for a couple of tenths here so we would have broke it without using it. The track has a lot of grip; it’s really fun to drive here. Unfortunately there is so much grip that I really doubt we can use any of the information we gained at any of the tracks this season. The information might be completely irrelevant. We were able to work through some issues with the car. Cosworth is really trying to get some issues resolved and have made some progress and Hewland has improved the gearbox. The McDonald’s boys have fixed what they could but now it is in the hands of the suppliers. There aren’t any tests left so I really hope they can fix the problems but we won’t know until we get to Las Vegas. You hardly ever win a championship with a good start to the season but you can lose it if you have a bad start.”

Graham Rahal, test driver of the No. 2 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone: “We had some engine problems this morning and didn’t get back on track until mid afternoon but ended the day fine. We made a good run that I thought was better than it ended up being but we did what we could. We have to keep in perspective that we didn’t get much running in because of the engine change and when we did get back on track we focused on long runs. I’m pretty happy with where we are compared to some guys who were buzzing around and around here logging laps.”

RuSPORT
RuSPORT and Justin Wilson hit the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, California for their third pre-season test in preparation for the 2007 Champ Car World Series season and their fight for the Vanderbilt Cup after finishing as the runner-up in last year’s effort.

After two previous positive tests, which saw Wilson and the team get acclimated with the new Panoz Champ Car, this test was a chance to really get prepared and find a car that will be race ready for the season opener in Las Vegas. Running times that saw the #9 CDW Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone in-and-out of the top five throughout the two-day test, Wilson’s final result placed him 7th on the Champ Car timing and scoring chart after completing over 342 miles and posting his best time of 1:06.755 (120.692 mph).

In the past, RuSPORT’s two-car effort has helped the team to perform on-track. With only one-car confirmed, RuSPORT teamed up with fifth-year Champ Car team Rocketsports Racing as an attempt to work together as a two-car effort for this test and possibly in the 2007 season. It was proven to be beneficial for both sides, as the drivers and team members worked well and efficiently together, giving positive results that reflected both on-and-off the track.

Wilson and the CDW crew found themselves off to a good start, sitting in the top ten during the morning session on Friday, March 9 with only completing 16 laps. During the afternoon, Wilson recorded 29 laps and put forth his best time of 1:07.497 (119.365 mph) on the 2.238-mile permanent road course at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit.

The new Panoz Champ Cars were up to speed immediately recording impressive times. The track-lap record from Champ Car’s previous runs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a time of 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves in a Reynard Champ Car on September 9, 2000, and that time was blown away during the first session when the new Panoz Champ Cars hit the familiar asphalt. In the midst of all the excitement of the quick lap times, on Saturday Champ Car placed a $5,000 bounty to the first driver/team that could beat the track-record time of 1:06.309 set by Toyota’s Formula 1 car last year.

With warmer temperatures and continued sunny skies, the team started Saturday morning’s run in the sixth spot with a time of 1:06.870 (120.485 mph), logging 47 laps. Heading back out in the afternoon, Wilson’s pace continued to increase as he ran in the top-three for most of the four-hour session.

Wilson’s Saturday-end result was a time of 1:06.755 (120.692 mph) that was sixth-best, but it was just shy of setting a new record. However, three-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais did it and the end of the day when he recorded a 1:05.880 (122.295 mph), which is a great demonstration of just how fast these new Champ Car machines are and that they will promise some great racing in 2007 and beyond.

“I am very pleased with our results over the past two-days,” said Wilson. “We were only tenths off of the top of the field in the #9 CDW Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone, so we are quite pleased about that. I am not sure what Sebastien Bourdais is up too, he is on fire! But I think that working with Rocketsports was a great opportunity, and we all worked very well together. It was definitely an advantage to have a teammate, especially an experienced one like Alex (Tagliani). I feel that we were both able to benefit from working together and it showed. I think overall it was a very positive experience as we prepare for our first race in April and I am ready to get CDW and RuSPORT in victory lane!”

“Overall, it was a good test for us,” commented Jeremy Dale, RuSPORT President. “Our goals were simple, we wanted to continue to run as many miles as we possibly could and gain as much understanding of the new Panoz Champ Car in order to make it as fast as we can. I think that we were able to accomplish those things over the last two days, and it was a great experience to work with the Rocketsports crew. We achieved a lot, and with out a doubt, working with them added to the overall efficiency of this test. With the positive results we had during this test, we are really looking forward to our first race in a few weeks.”

The team will head back to their home-base in Colorado and begin preparations for the season opener on April 6-8. The 2007 Champ Car World Series season kicks off in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, the first of a full 16-race schedule running from April to December.

Rocketsports
After officially announcing Alex Tagliani as the team’s driver, Rocketsports Racing participated in their third pre-season test March 9-10 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterrey, California and had a successful run as they make their final preparations for the start of the Champ Car season in April.

Running one car, the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone, Rocketsports Racing joined efforts during this test with fourth-year Champ Car team RuSPORT. RuSPORT’s 2007 Champ Car entry of the #9 CDW Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone piloted by Justin Wilson, along with Rocketsports, saw the possible benefits of running and working together during this test as an attempt to be technical partners for this season.

“It has been a great two days for us,” an excited Tagliani proclaimed. “We have been so fast, and due to a combination of two things: my new engineer Chris Lerch, and our joined-efforts with RuSPORT. I am just so excited to be working with Chris, we really have a good connection. Also, I have a good relationship with Justin (Wilson) off-track, and to work with him in a more professional matter in a team setting, as been a great opportunity. He is a world-class driver and it is an honor to have this chance to work with him as a teammate. So those two efforts really benefited me as a driver, and Rocketsports as a team.”

After accomplishing a full-day of media activities on Thursday, Tagliani jumped into the #8 car on Friday and immediately saw positive results. In the morning session, the Montreal-native was sixth quickest posting a time of 1:07.623 (119.143 mph) after completing 43 laps around the 2.238-mile permanent road course of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit. The afternoon session saw him add-on 20 more timed laps, recording a best time of 1:07.799 (118.834 mph), in which he finished the day in the ninth spot.

With the debut of the Panoz Champ Car on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track, lap times impressed many. Champ Car’s lap-record at this track was set back in 2000, when Helio Castroneves recorded a lap time of 1:07.722 in a Reynard. Tagliani beat that time on Friday morning, showing that incredible speed that these new cars have. As the times of these new Panoz cars continued to increase, Champ Car put out a $5,000 bounty to the first driver/team that could best the track-record time of 1:06.309 set by Toyota’s Formula 1 car in 2006.

On another bright and sunny day, with warmer temperatures and a flock of spectators on-site, Tagliani and the team ventured out for some more track time on Saturday. After making 48 orbits, Tagliani saw himself in the top five at the end of the morning session after recording a 1:06.804 (120.604 mph). Running most of the afternoon in the top three, Tagliani finished the afternoon in the seventh spot posting a time of 1:06.760 (120.683 mph).

Tagliani and the Rocketsports crew came close to setting a new track record, but it three-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais who would claim the prize and leave a Champ Car mark at the series’ former-venue after posting a 1:05.880 (122.295 mph).

“Overall, this was a great test for us,” continued Tagliani. “We did not have as many clean laps as we hoped to on the second day, and we were not using the Power-to-Pass at the right times, so I feel that we could have been faster in the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone. I think that the crew is really pumped up with our results and we are ready to go racing. I think that Paul (Gentilozzi) and Dan (Pettit) are very excited with the overall results of working together, Rocketsports and RuSPORT. I am very excited for what is to come!”

Completing over 302 miles, Tagliani finished the test as the eighth quickest driver after posting his best time during the two-day run of 1:06.760 (120.683 mph).

“We are very pleased with our results this test,” said Rocketsports team owner Paul Gentilozzi. “Obviously we are trying out a co-op relationship with RuSPORT and we feel that it has been quite beneficial. Being able to work together has show value to both drivers and the teams. Everyone is working really well together, so it has been a positive experience. We are heading in a positive direction and we are really looking forward to starting the season in April.”

The 2007 Champ Car World Series season kicks off April 8 in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, the first of a full 16-race schedule running from April to December.

PKV Racing
Red Bull PKV Racing’s Neel Jani posted the third fastest time at Champ Car World Series Spring Training, March 9-10, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.  Meanwhile, teammate Tristan Gommendy, who signed with the team on Thursday and was in a Champ Car for just the second time, notched the 14th fastest lap of the 18 drivers posting times.

Jani, behind the wheel of the #21 Red Bull PKV Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone machine, concluded the two-days of testing with a fast lap of 66.516 seconds (121.126 mph) on the 2.38-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca permanent road course.  Gommendy’s quick time in the #22 PKV Racing car came in at 68.325 seconds (117.919 mph)

In morning practice Jani ran by far the most laps of any driver, 71, as the Red Bull PKV Racing Team simulated a full two hour race.  Despite focusing on the long run, Jani still managed the third fastest lap of the session turning a quick time of 66.606 seconds (120.962 mph) on lap 39.  Gommendy, who made his Champ Car debut yesterday, worked with his crew until late yesterday evening adjusting the steering wheel, seat and pedal settings in preparation for his second day of testing.  The extra work paid off as Gommendy, who is still familiarizing himself with his new team and car, made significant progress during this morning’s practice.  Gommendy ran what proved to be his fastest lap of the day on the 23rd of 25 circuits he completed in the morning.  The quick lap placed him 13th on the individual session report and initially moved him from 16th to 13th on the combined speed chart.

During the afternoon session Jani went back to working on his setup running just 35 laps, which enabled him to post the second fastest time of the session and what would prove to be the third fastest overall lap. 

“In the morning our main target was to go a race distance, so I could get used to running a full race and saving fuel. That basically took up the whole morning,” Jani said.  “We spent the afternoon working on some important things that we could not do at either Sebring or Houston.”  Jani concluded by saying, “I am happy with the lap time we posted today.”

Gommendy experienced some problems during the afternoon and only turned four laps, but overall was pleased with his second day in a PKV Racing Champ Car.

“I think the PKV Racing Team did a good job today,” Gommendy said.  “The new setup was much better for me.  After today, I am much more comfortable in the car both physically and mentally.  It is a good car.  For sure I am disappointed that we are not quicker, but I know that we still have some work to do on the car and I still have a lot to learn.”

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