Champ Car Field For 2007 Continues Taking Shape
INDIANAPOLIS – With today’s announcement of Dan Clarke and Robert Doornbos as the drivers for newly-christened Minardi Team USA, the Champ Car World Series enters what is expected to be a furious week full of driver and sponsor announcements as the lineup for the 2007 season takes shape.
Doornbos joins a very strong Champ Car rookie contingent that already includes PKV Racing’s Neel Jani and Tristan Gommendy, Pacific Coast Motorsports’ Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge, along with 2006 Champ Car Atlantic champion Simon Pagenaud of Team Australia, with more rookies to be announced by the end of the week.
Clarke joins a skilled group of returning drivers that includes three-time and defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy, Justin Wilson, Alex Tagliani and Will Power in a field that will circle the globe in chase of the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup. Again as with the rookies, more veterans are expected to be added to the 2007 lineup tomorrow.
But with a dozen drivers in the fold, and time ticking as the season-opening Vegas Grand Prix approaches, drivers and teams continue to burn the midnight oil in finalizing their deals for the 2007 Champ Car season.
As many as six potential seats remain open for the 2007 campaign, while a litany of drivers with glittering resumes try to position themselves for a ride in the new Cosworth-powered DP01 chassis. Former Champ Car series runners-up Oriol Servia and Bruno Junqueira are battling alongside former Champ Car race winners such as Mario Dominguez and Nelson Philippe for positions, while young chargers such as Katherine Legge, Charles Zwolsman, Nicky Pastorelli and Jan Heylen are working overtime to make their names in the top tier of U.S. open-wheel motorsports. Teams with seats to fill include Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, Forsythe Championship Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Conquest Racing, with some of those teams making their moves as early as tomorrow afternoon.
“I think there's a lot of good drivers out there. But circumstances are never always the same,” said Minardi Team USA co-owner Keith Wiggins. “I believe some of the drivers that are out there that have finished high up in the championship have finished high up in the championship several years, but they have not won it, so that probably gives you my opinion; that it's time to always look for the new people that are coming in who have the aggression and a fresh approach and are still hungry to win and haven't forgotten how to win.”
The time has never been better for a team to make a move toward the front of the Champ Car grid as the new DP01 combined with a season schedule featuring six new venues has leveled the series’ playing field like never before. The new car puts extra emphasis on the teams to find the right combination of skill and determination to fill their seats, leading some team owners to take on a quick driver that may not have as much Champ Car experience as they try to unseat reigning Champ Car king Bourdais.
There are as many different approaches to a driver lineup as there are potential setups on a Champ Car, but the truth will be on the time chart and on the track in just nine days as the curtain goes up on a full field of Champ Car World Series competitors on the streets of Las Vegas.