Team Australia begins championship chase
Team Australia drivers Will Power and Simon Pagenaud begin their championship charge in the 2007 Champ Car World Series on the streets of Las Vegas in Nevada, United States this weekend.
Power served his Champ Car apprenticeship with distinction last season, finishing sixth in the championship and winning the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year title in his first full season in Champ Car.
Like Power, Team Australia has come on in leaps and bounds. 2007 is the Aussie Vineyards squad’s third season in the Champ Car World Series and it’s best chance yet for race wins and championship success. Team Australia has set a strong pace in pre-season testing in its pair of new DP01 Champ Cars, the new car bringing a more level playing field to the category for 2007.
Toowoomba-born Power came on strong over the second half of the 2006 season, picking up his first pole position at his home event on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia as well as grabbing his maiden podium finish at the season finale in Mexico City.
That form has continued in pre-season testing, with Power setting the fastest time in official testing at the MSR Houston circuit in February and then scoring the second fastest behind defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais in Spring Training at Laguna Seca in March.
With 16 Champ Car starts under his belt the 26-year-old is ready to make the #5 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01 a regular podium contender as he challenges for his and Team Australia’s first Champ Car win and, ultimately, a crack at the 2007 Champ Car World Series crown.
One of the early favorites to succeed Power’s thrown as the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year is his new Team Australia team-mate, Simon Pagenaud.
The reigning Champ Car Atlantic Champion will suit up in the #15 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01 this season and the Frenchman has already impressed in pre-season testing.
The 22-year-old not only possess the speed to run with the established stars of Champ Car, but also drives with maturity beyond his years, a trait that will serve him well this season over the course of the 16-round championship.
Both Team Australia drivers are based in Indianapolis close to the team’s workshop and have maintained a grueling training regime over the off-season to ensure peak physical condition for this early part of the championship. The first three races of the season are on consecutive weekends and each is on a demanding street circuit, making it a challenging start to season 2007.
Team Australia prides itself on the professional appearance of its race cars. This season the new green and gold Aussie Vineyards DP01 Champ Cars are decked out in Sherwin William’s Planet Color Paint and are the early favorites to defend the team’s Sherwin Williams Best Presented Car Award.
The opening round of the season in Las Vegas also marks an exciting time for Aussie Vineyards as US sales continue to grow and the company’s Au range enjoys status as the official wine of the Champ Car World Series.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY …
Will Power – #5 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01
“We have done all the work necessary to be competitive this year, so I am really looking forward to Las Vegas,” said Power.
“The team has worked really hard in the off-season and I’m in good form. I have a season under my belt and understand the cars well. I’m ready to get back to racing.
“I just can’t wait to get started, we have been waiting a long time. The key this year is to minimize mistakes and to get as many points as we can and go for the championship.
“My expectations are to qualify in the top five and hopefully win races and bring Team Australia a championship at the end of the year.”
Simon Pagenaud – #15 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01
“Obviously I’m really excited about going to Las Vegas and doing my first race in Champ Car there, it’s going to be a huge event,” said Pagenaud.
“Champ Car has been doing a great job in promoting the race. On the race side I’m really excited again because the car is so enjoyable to drive and I just look forward to being there and doing my first practice session, learning step by step and performing as well as I can.
“This will be my first long race with pit stops, so it won’t be easy, every mile I do I will learn more.
“After the first three races on street courses we can start to push a little bit more and have a great year with the team with the goal of rookie of the year and to win some races in mind.”
Derrick Walker – Team Australia Co-Owner
“I think the Las Vegas race, per say being in the streets of Las Vegas, and what that represents on a Easter weekend, holiday weekend for our season opener is a great place to have our first event,” said Walker.
“With the promoter we have in Las Vegas, I think it’s going to be one of the best promoted races we go to all year. It’s a great start to the season.
“Regarding the team, I would say we are as we well prepared as we have ever been, given it is a new season starting and also, it’s a brand new car and lot of work that’s had to be done in a short period of time, to not only try and learn this car, but find out any weaknesses it might have.
“Of course, to bring on another rookie driver to the team has been another winter project that I think overall has gone rather well.
“Going into the race we are as prepared as the time has allowed us, but I’m pretty happy going into the season.”
Craig Gore – Team Australia Co-Owner
“After a couple of years of really cutting our teeth in the Champ Car World Series, I think Team Australia is set to go to the next level,” said Gore.
“Derrick Walker has done a fantastic job continually motivating the team and there is no doubt that the new DP01 chassis and Will Power having a full year’s experience under his belt will help close the gap between us and Newman-Haas.
“The exciting thing for us is that we have now launched the Aussie Vineyards product in the US and the wine is receiving some tremendous compliments.
“We used Champ Car to launch the brand over a 12-month period and now we have stock on the shelves that we can sell. In fact, we have the wine in a range of outlets across Las Vegas this weekend.
“Team Australia is about the promotion of Australian businesses and products in the massive US market place and we have led the way and have shown what can be achieved with the Aussie Vineyards wine.
“We are hoping that our on-track results will match the growing in-store sales we are continually achieving with our wine.
“I am sure Will Power will do Australia proud this season and really take it to defending champion Sebastien Bourdais. I am also confident that Simon Pagenaud will reward us with the faith we have shown in him.
“It would be amazing if we could get to the Lexmark Indy 300 on the streets of the Gold Coast in October and be in a position where we are fighting for the championship, or better still, be in a position to win it.
“We are proud to be taking Australian talent like Will Power and Australian brands and companies to the world through the fantastic marketing tool of motorsport.”