Minardi Team USA is revved up For Down Under
Minardi Team USA and the Champ Car World Series will hit the streets of Surfers Paradise on October 19-21, 2007, and the team’s Australian co-owner, Paul Stoddart, hopes for nothing less than another podium visit for drivers Robert Doornbos and ‘Speedy’ Dan Clarke.
Australia is also a favorite of team-owner Keith Wiggins who has led the team to two previous victories at Surfers – last year with Nelson Philippe and in 2002 with Mario Dominguez. The team name and driver line-up may have changed for 2007 but Wiggins has similar high expectations for this year’s event and is looking to achieve a third win at the always exciting Surfers Paradise venue. Keith is confident that the preparation and testing for this race has gone well and the team is well-placed for another top level performance.
Dutchman, Robert Doornbos, currently lies third in the Championship points standings, with two race wins and six podium finishes scored to date in an impressive Rookie season. Englishman, Dan Clarke, earned his best result thus far in a relatively short Champ Car career with a fine second place at Road America, in Wisconsin, early in August. Both drivers have spent the six-week break between Champ Car’s two European races, in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the upcoming Australian event, testing and training in order to keep themselves in top form for the final “push” that will determine the outcome of the 2007 title hunt.
Team Manager Vince Kremer gets a view from the cockpit- don’t worry- he’s not in charge here!
Born and raised in the Melbourne suburb of North Coburg, Paul Stoddart brings an Aussie connection to the predominantly European team, and the logo of his OzJet airline features prominently on the side pods of the No 14 Minardi Team USA entry, driven by Doornbos. The charter airline, which was founded in 2004, has provided air travel for the entire Minardi Team USA crew to and from North American races this season, and there’s no doubt that flying on a Boeing 737, set up in 60-seat, Business-Class-only configuration and decked out in Minardi Team USA and OzJet livery, is a luxury that team personnel have really come to appreciate. Apart from the comfort of the flight home after the rigors of a race weekend, it helps to maintain a sense of “family” within the close-knit organization.
For Paul Stoddart, it is clear his passion is motor racing while his business interests center on aviation – he has both a successful aircraft spares company and another airline, European Aviation Air Charter, based in the UK. That theme looks set to continue now his motor racing focus has switched to North America, as the entrepreneurial Aussie recently launched a new aviation spares business, Skybus LLC, headquartered near Indianapolis International Airport. It’s fair to say this latest development also demonstrates his belief in, as well as solid commitment to, his new North American racing and aviation interests.
“I can't wait to get back to my Minardi Team USA Champ Car office and go racing on the other side of the world! What I've seen on video footage it looks like a very challenging circuit in Surfers Paradise with no room for error, as the walls are very close. It should be fun. There was a big gap between races, which is difficult for teams and drivers, but I've been keeping busy with some testing both with Minardi Team USA and for F1 and also doing PR activities. I feel 110% ready for the final stint of this year’s championship and will be looking to finish on a high.”
‘Speedy’ Dan Clarke:
“I’m definitely looking forward to going back to Australia again, and hopefully the team can repeat as race winner. We were quick here last year, and after our testing in Sebring, we should be ready to go. I really enjoy this event; it’s a great atmosphere and a great circuit. I’m ready to get back in the car and race after the break, but I have kept busy training and I joined Champ Car representatives in Laguna when they announced their schedule. All in all, these last two events will be our time to shine, and this Black Sheep is looking to tear it up.”
Paul Stoddart, Team Co-owner:
“There’s no doubt, by whatever measure, that Minardi Team USA has enjoyed a great season in the Champ Car World Series in 2007, with seven podium finishes and two wins to date, and it’s clear the Series has lived up to its promise of providing close, entertaining, cost-effective racing. The underlying concept behind Champ Car is good, and from a personal point of view, I have to say it has been particularly enjoyable this year to be up the front of the grid, challenging for the silverware at most races, compared with struggling at the back of the F1 grid for five years, with no realistic hope against the manufacturer-backed teams.
“As for the Surfers Paradise race, the goal for Minardi Team USA will be to maximize its points haul at both this event and the final round of the season, in Mexico City. As an Australian, however, this race obviously has special significance for me, and following the team’s win here last year with Nelson (Philippe), I know the whole crew will be hugely fired up to try and do the same again. I’m sure Team Australia might have something to say about it, but you can be sure that everyone at Minardi Team USA will be giving this one absolutely their best shot. It’s going to be another great weekend on the Gold Coast, and there’s every likelihood the fans will again witness a closely fought, hugely exciting race.”
Keith Wiggins, Team Co-owner:
“I love this race; it represents what a Champ Car race is and what a well-run event should be. Of course being in Australia and having Aussie race fans gives it an advantage. There is nothing better than winning this event and we need to do so in order for our season to end on a strong note, just as we started. It would also be nice for Paul if we could achieve this and we are certainly capable as a team with a little good fortune going our way, which is always needed at this wild event.”