Team Australia drivers return to Zolder Team Australia is taking a history of success into the Grand Prix of Zolder for Round 11 of the Champ Car World Series in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium this weekend.
Team Australia driver Will Power scored pole position around the Zolder circuit in 2005 while racing for Carlin Motorsport in the World Series by Renault. Later that year Power was signed by Team Australia to pilot the Aussie Vineyards Champ Car with his debut coming on the streets of the Gold Coast in his native Australia in October.
Power was the pacesetter that weekend at his last visit to Zolder but mechanical problems prevented him from finishing the race. This weekend Power hopes to put the frustration of a mechanical failure at the last round in Elkhart Lake behind him with a win at Zolder’s first-ever Champ Car event.
Fellow Team Australia driver Simon Pagenaud was also a competitor in the 2005 World Series by Renault, with his 2005 Zolder weekend highlighted by a stunning drive from 11th on the grid to finish fourth around the challenging circuit.
While his last visit to the circuit may not have been as recent, Team Australia co-owner Derrick Walker also has past experience at the Belgium circuit.
Walker was the chief mechanic for the Brabham Formula 1 team at Zolder in 1973 and 1975, making it 32 years since Walker has visited the Belgium circuit.
His last Zolder visit was a successful one, with Argentinean Carlos Reutemann driving the Brabham-Ford BT44B to third place in the 1975 Belgium F1 Grand Prix after starting sixth on the grid. Brabham’s second driver, Carlos Pace of Brazil, finished eighth after starting from second on the grid.
Walker and the Brabham team also enjoyed a solid finish in 1973 in Zolder’s first F1 Grand Prix, when Italian Andrea de Adamich finished fourth from 18th on the grid in the Brabham-Ford BT37 at Zolder, while his Brabham team-mates Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi failed to finish.
This is also something of a home race for Pagenaud, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01 and one of the leading rookies in the Champ Car field.
The Frenchman has many fans, including busloads of students from his driving school in Montmorillon, France, making the trip to Zolder to watch him compete in this weekend’s race.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY …
Will Power – #5 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01 “We had a disappointing round in Elkhart Lake, but we’re not down and out, in fact we are in the heat of the battle and the championship is not over yet,” said Power.
“You know what they say bad luck comes in three’s, so we had our three bad races in a row, so watch out in Europe.
“I really look forward to going back to Zolder, it’s a track that I really enjoy and one that suits my style well and brings good luck for me. I earned pole there in World Series By Renault and I’m ready to claim pole again.
“This will be a good weekend for the team and for the Champ Car World Series as well. I think it’s great that we are going to Europe, the fans are awesome and very supportive of racing.
“The Aussie Vineyards car should be quick and hopefully you will see us on the podium.”
Simon Pagenaud – #15 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia DP01 “It’s going to be lots of fun to go back home and to race in front of all of my friends and family,” said Pagenaud.
“We didn’t have the best weekend in Road America and I want to get the Aussie Vineyards car back on track, if I could I would be there already.
“I want to show the team that we are still one of the strongest combinations and strongest teams in the paddock.
“I can’t wait to go back and the fact that it’s in Europe and I’ve raced at Zolder, makes it even more special for me and it will be great for everyone in Champ Car and the fans.
“It’s a new kind of racing for Europe and it will be great for them to learn the strategy and racing, it’s going to be a great show. I can’t wait to get back and we’ll see what happens.”
Derrick Walker – Team Australia Co-Owner “Going to a new track always creates different circumstances,” said Walker.
“At a critical time in the championship, we are going to two new tracks and that creates some variables that the teams all have to deal with at a time that they would all like to focus on how they can get more points in the championship.
“Now they are going to have an additional variable of a track that we have never been to and not really had a lot of access to. We are very fortunate that we have two drivers that have driven on the Zolder circuit, so their familiarity of the track will give them a slight gain.
“The level of drivers in Champ Car are such that by the first qualifying session they will have figured everything out that they need to know about the track and that uncertainty will quickly disappear and we will be back to racing for the championship.”
Craig Gore – Team Australia Co-Owner “Team Australia is really excited about the next two races, which are both staged in Europe,” said Gore.
“Importantly for us, these two rounds are the last before our biggest event of the season, the Lexmark Indy 300 on the Gold Coast, so it would be great if Will could close the gap to Sebastien in the points before our home event in October.
“Both our guys have raced at the Zolder circuit in the past, which should help them get up to speed a little quicker than some others, especially in qualifying. By race day the cream should rise to the top but with a front row grid spot up for grabs on Friday every session counts so it pays to be fast early.
“This is as close to a home race as Simon gets and I sincerely hope he is able to land his first Champ Car podium at Zolder. He has been very close several times already this season and is doing an outstanding job.
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