RSPORTS hopes Portland test will lead to improvements RSPORTS did not even have a chance to stop and smell the roses while campaigning in the 2007 Champ Car season opening races in Las Vegas, Long Beach, or Houston as the three-in-a-row schedule kept the crew and drivers on the tips of their toes. This week, the team, along with drivers Alex Tagliani and Justin Wilson, hope to do just that when they hit the Rose City’s road course at Portland International Raceway in an attempt to reflect where they are at as a team and prepare for the upcoming challenges on road course circuits.
The excitement will reign for the 23rd time as the Champ Cars return to Portland International Raceway’s scenic 1.960-mile permanent road course on June 8-10. But before those festivities begin, the Pacific Northwest will have the chance to witness the sights and sounds of the new Champ Car DP01 on the Portland track this week. Several Champ Car teams will take the opportunity for some testing time at a track they will see in a few weeks as a battle field when they return for the G.I. Joe’s Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.
RSPORTS will run both the #8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone driven by Tagliani and Justin Wilson’s #9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone this week during the three-day test. According to Champ Car rules for 2007, there is a 600-mile allotment of testing time per team. This will be the first of a few testing appearance RSPORTS will make during the 2007 season. The team will take to the asphalt this morning at Portland International Raceway.
“So far I am very pleased with how this season is going, and actually quite surprised with how fast it all happened,” stated Tagliani. “I think that the most important thing is to be able to adapt to a new engineer. Sometimes it takes time to for an engineer and driver to gel, but that is not the case with my engineer Chris Lerch, whom I had only met for the first time in the final pre-season test at Laguna Seca this March. I am just so pleased to be working with him, we have really connected and it seems to be going well. So, for me as a driver, I couldn’t be happier.
I feel that the first three races went very well for us. We were running in the top five in every session except during qualifying in Houston. But once we got started in the Houston race, we were back to pace. It was a shame, the #8 LXN2/RSPORTS car was fast in the race but refueling issues cost us another top five finish. But as a result, we are still up there in the championship standings and it is very tight, so we are on the right track. Our goal at the start of the season was to obtain as many points as possible in every event so we do not fall behind in the championship standings. We were as high as second in the points standings after Long Beach and we are still sitting up there in fourth after Houston, so I feel that we have been achieving our goal and that we have good momentum to stay strong throughout the season.”
Tagliani hopes the positive momentum continues from the first three races which resulted in two top fives and a ninth-place finish.
“Going to Portland for some testing time will be very important for us,” said Tagliani. “Our first three races were on street courses, and now we have a couple of road course events coming up, so this test will help us prepare the new Champ Cars for the different terrain. It is also important because this track is one that we will be racing at this season, so it will be very valuable to get as much knowledge and data as we possibly can. That will help us greatly when we return in June for the race. Mostly we are just hoping to continue the learning process on these new Champ Cars with the hopes of closing the gap and stepping our competition level up one more notch.”
RSPORTS driver Wilson is not as satisfied as Tagliani with the start of his season behind the #9 CDW/RSPORTS Champ Car.
“It has been a disappointing start to the season for us,” commented Wilson. “Our results were just not what we were hoping for. However, we have been making good process, so hopefully our bad luck streak is over and we can move forward in a more positive direction in terms of results.”
The 2007 season beginnings saw Wilson struggle to start the season with a DNF after having a mechanical failure in Las Vegas, finish in the top five at Long Beach with a fourth-place result, and salvage a tenth-place spot after an on-track incident gave him a flat tire and ultimately ruined a solid top three performance for the driver who started strong in the third spot and lead early on in Houston. However, the Englishman is not completely dissatisfied as he looks to build on the progress they have made and prepare for the future this week.
Wilson added, “I am hoping that we can get some good track time in during our test in Portland. It will be important to get a car that will be ready for the race when we return in June. Portland International Raceway is a unique track. The more miles that we can do, the better off we will be when we return. It is a good opportunity to prepare for our next race, which will be at the Portland International Raceway, along with getting us situated for future road course events with this new Champ Car.”