Down Under Diary - Day One
G'day Mates! I survived the nearly 14 hour flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane and managed to stay awake on the bus ride into Surfers Paradise. So here I am sitting on the beach listening to the waves roll in writing my first Down Under diary.
The Champ Car Community has officially taken over Surfers Paradise! Most of the team members are taking advantage of their first day here to get in some rest and relaxation before heading to the track tomorrow to start working on the cars.
As for the stars of the show they are either checking out their 'digs' at Conrad Jupiters or checking out the Bartercard Miss Indy girls in Brisbane.
A handful of drivers elected to jump in a limousine only a few hours after they got to Surfers to head to the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane to partake in an autograph session and judge the Miss Indy Sportswear competition. We will have more on that in tomorrow's diary but for now here are some tidbits from today's news.
<Epoch Times> Ireland
***Gold Coast Puts on Indy Glitz and Glamour
Indy may not have the history or importance to rival the Mount Panorama Bathurst 1000 spectacle, one ingredient it does have in abundance is glitz and glamour—a bit like Schoolies week for grown-ups, attracting the Chardonnay and Champagne set for their once a year motorsport feast during the four day carnival.
Indy still attracts the basic core of motor racing fans in large numbers during race week taking in rounds of both the V8 Supercar and Champ car seasons. Many who trudged through the mud at Oran park in round eight, slept in tents at Bathurst and encountered the drought and bush fires at Winton find themselves in swank two and a half star accommodation smack bang in the middle of Australia's number one holiday playground.
The 2007 Lexmark Indy 300 on the Gold Coast is expected to attract more than 300,000 people this weekend with the biggest names in Australian motorsport including Skaife, Lowndes, Whincup, Courtney, Kelly and co-sharing centre stage with International drivers including Bourdais, Tracy and Dominguez.
Over the 16 years of Indy on the Gold Coast, the Champ Cars have lit up the track clocking speeds in excess of 300km per hour as the drivers chase the rich series prize money and acclaim. Champ Car racing features 800-horsepower open wheel vehicles in an international 14-round series held in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Australia.
The Lexmark Indy 300 winners honor roll features some of the World's best known drivers including, John Andretti (1991), Emerson Fittipaldi (1992), Nigel Mansell (1993), Michael Andretti (1994), Paul Tracy (1995), Jimmy Vasser (1996), Scott Pruett (1997), Alex Zanardi (1998), Dario Franchitti (1999), Adrian Fernandez (2000), Cristiano da Matta (2001), Mario Dominguez (2002), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2003), Bruno Junqueira (2004), Sebastian Bourdais (2005) and Nelson Philippe (2006).
An amazing record is that there have been 16 different winners in 16 years, a record that Dominguez, Tracy and Bourdais will be aiming to break in 2007. A massive coup for the Lexmark Indy 300 this year is the home grown talent of Will Power, currently running fourth in the series driving for Team Australia, Power will be aiming to better the seventh-place finish by fellow Aussie David Besnard in 2004 in a special one-off Champ car drive.
Joining the Champ Cars at the top of the bill will be the V8 Supercar Challenge—the 11th round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series. Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes have taken a firm grip in the battle for the Supercar crown this year after the crash and bash spectacle at the previous Bathurst round put paid to a few championship aspirations, although the Triple Eight Team will be aware while the Gold Coast is famous for it's sunshine past title dreams have been dampened in paradise.
Rick Kelly, Garth Tander and Todd Kelly will be pushing hard on the tough street circuit, trying to put as much pressure on Lowndes and Whincup to resurrect their own championship hopes, before both the Triple Eight drivers dust off a space in the trophy cabinet next to their recently acquired Bathurst 1000 and Sandown trophies for the 2007 championship series Crown. Thirty one V8 Supercars in three championship races around the confines of the Surfers Paradise concrete canyon should be a beauty.
The 4.47km circuit consists of 2515 concrete blocks which all weigh four tones each. They are moved to and from the circuit six at a time on the back of a line of semi-trailers. In other interesting statistics, the circuit requires 10km of debris fencing, 16km of security fencing and 10 temporary bridges. It is all constructed in 96 days, down from the 199 days it took only ten years ago in 1997. Even now the inventory infrastructure is three times what it was in the first year in 1991.
More than 1500 people volunteer their services to deliver the Event in roles such as track marshals, media assistants, accreditation staff, corporate hosts, gate officials, fire marshals, grandstand officials, flag marshals, information booth attendants, grid marshals and much more. In fact 43 of these 1500 have been volunteers every year since the event started in 1991.
<Gold Coast News>
***Frenchie is eager to bring the love back
SIMON Pagenaud jetted into the Gold Coast yesterday determined to bring some love back into the Australia-France motor racing relationship.
The 23-year-old Frenchman has a tough job on his hands. Plenty of Aussies are still filthy at how Pagenaud's countryman Sebastien Bourdais `robbed' Queenslander Will Power of victory in last year's Gold Coast Indy race.
After starting off pole, the Toowoomba-born 26-year-old was leading when he was first involved in a minor skirmish with Paul Tracy in pit lane on lap 14 before contact with Bourdais on lap 29 wrecked any chance he had of winning.
Bourdais appeared to attempt a suicide pass down Power's inside before locking up and leaving Power with nowhere to go.
That rush of blood cost Power a fairytale result on his home track and caused his Team Australia camp to heap abuse on Bourdais.
There was also plenty of anti-French sentiment in the packed Indy stands following the race.
But in a twist, Bourdais' close friend Pagenaud progressed through to Team Australia's Champ Car stable this year to be Power's teammate.
Arriving on the Coast yesterday for next week's event, Pagenaud urged Aussie fans to 'allow this Frenchman' into their hearts.
"Last year was not great for Frenchmen in Australia," he said. "I hope they (the fans) will see me differently and like my driving style.
"Sebastien is a great driver ... but what happened was not great. He made a mistake and it was not great for the race."
Pagenaud is running eighth in his rookie season but has impressed with five top five and eight top 10 finishes this season.
<Gold Coast News>
***Indy drivers get right of way
The roads through Surfers were closed during the early hours of this morning, but it's full steam ahead as drivers and their cars descend on the Gold Coast in time for Indy.
The Gold Coast Highway between Tedder Avenue and Elkhorn Avenue was closed at 12.01 this morning and will remain closed until next Monday.
The northbound lanes between Ferny Avenue and Waterways Drive will become a two-lane road.
Meanwhile, the Team Australia drivers have been resting and recovering from their jetlag while their Champ Cars, which arrived on Friday, are in the pit lane but still under Customs control.
The cars will be kept in their protective plastic covering until tomorrow morning when Customs officers should be satisfied that any grass or dirt on the wheels isn't carrying any foreign diseases.
Yesterday, Team Australia drivers Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, who flew in from the US on Friday, made the most of the Gold Coast sunshine surrounded by young fans on their first day of the nippers season.
The Southport Surf Life Saving Club's 300 nippers were treated to a visit from some of their driving heroes.
Eleven-year-old Robert Porter said he was looking forward to next week's big race.
"I know a lot of the drivers," he said. "I've been in Craig Lowndes' garage before. I will be cheering for Team Australia."
Although he is originally from France, Pagenaud is very much into the surf lifestyle.
"I went surfing with Will Power on Saturday," he said. "The surf was a little bit flat, but it's getting better and I will definitely go again."
Pagenaud loves the Gold Coast so much he is thinking about settling down here.
"I would like to buy a house on the Gold Coast," he said.
"I would like to come back with all my friends for a holiday."
Pagenaud said he was relaxing before the on-track action kicks off on Thursday.
"It's very important to be relaxed for the race weekend because there is a lot of pressure," he said.
Teammate Will Power said he also needed to relax and to get over the jet-lag.
"It's important to recover from all the travelling, have a good think about the race and work out how to tackle it," he said. "The best way to do that is just to do the best job you can."
He said he wouldn't mind if the conditions on race-day were as good as yesterday or even if it rained.
"Almost every year it rains here," he said.
"Last year is probably the first year it hasn't rained. But I don't mind the rain.
"I won a race in the wet this year, but this sunny weather is really nice for the fans and it would be nice to have a weekend like this."
<The Courier-Mail> Australia
***Wilson back in driver's seat
October 16, 2007
JUSTIN Wilson, the second-best performed driver in the 2007 Champ Car series, has had an unusual preparation for the Lexmark Indy 300 this weekend.
There has been a seven-week break since the last race in the series at Assen, The Netherlands, on September 2, which was won by Wilson but the tall racer has hardly been sitting around.
In that time he has had surgery on his left knee and travelled to Surfers Paradise for a three-day promotional trip before going back to the US.
He then did a bit of moonlighting by running a Daytona Prototype Lexus/Riley in the Grand Am Rolex sports car series in Utah on September 16.
Wilson, who had a stint in Formula One with Minardi and Jaguar before establishing his Champ Car career in 2004, is technically still in the hunt for the title.
He is 58 points behind Sebastien Bourdais (Newman/Haas/Lanigan) and there are a maximum of 68 points including bonus points available from the last two rounds at Surfers Paradise and Mexico City.
Englishman Wilson is realistic, saying Bourdais has all but won his fourth consecutive title.
"Sebastien won the race at Zolder in Belgium a week before I won in Assen and that really was our big chance," Wilson said. "But unfortunately even though mathematically we may be alive I think Sebastien has won one race too many this year for us to be a chance with only two rounds left."
Wilson is back to full fitness after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee which was injured while he was swimming in a hotel pool in The Netherlands.
"Luckily it was my left leg, which I only use for braking. Assen was such a fast track that it didn't really bother me much during the race," he said.
Wilson is hoping lightning doesn't strike twice this weekend.
In the opening practice sessions on Friday last year, he broke his wrist when he clipped a tire bollard.
Changes to the track this year mean there will not be any tires on the apex of any corners around the 4.47km street circuit.
Wilson's RuSPORT’s team was absent from the latest Champ Car testing day at Sebring in Florida three weeks ago after using up all of its allotted test miles before the season kicked off earlier this year.
Practice and qualifying for the Champ Cars starts on Friday, the same day as V8 Supercars, which share equal billing with the US open wheelers, with three sprint races deciding round 11 of the Holden versus Ford series.
<Gold Coast News>
***Indy drivers roll in to Coast
October 16, 2007
AFTER racing all over the world during the year, drivers on the Champ Car series are finally where they want to be -- on the Gold Coast for Indy.
More drivers arrived yesterday, with the remainder set to hit the Coast today, and the word is they have been looking forward to the famous Surfers Paradise street race all year.
"This is my favorite place. I love the people and the track," said 2004 winner Bruno Junqueira.
"It's late in the season but from the start of the year everyone is looking forward to this race."
Junqueira arrived yesterday with Brit Justin Wilson, who said the Indy race provided the most fun of the year but was also the most challenging.
"The race is always a lot of fun but it's pretty tough," he said. "Even if you have the quickest car you need the luck as well because it's so tough."
The pair had a fresh look at the track yesterday from the Q1 Observation Deck where they soaked up the sights, including some passing whales.
<Gold Coast News>
***Indy: Nelson aims for race record
October 16, 2007
THE holiday is over for defending Gold Coast Indy champion Nelson Philippe, who believes he can become the event's first two-time winner on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Frenchman has spent a frustrating 2007 without a drive in the Champ Car series, but is back for the last two races -- the Gold Coast and Mexico.
"Yes, it has been pretty frustrating. I call it my enforced vacation," he said.
"But the Gold Coast is not a bad place to holiday, especially with the reigning Miss Indy."
After an extremely successful 2006, Philippe lost his seat in what was the CTE-HVM Racing team when Aussie Paul Stoddart took over ownership. Phillipe had finished the season fourth, with three podiums including a win in the Surfers Paradise race.
Despite losing his seat in the Champ Cars, 2006 didn't end on an entirely sour note. He and Bartercard Miss Indy Sarah Buller became an item and Philippe has spent plenty of down time on the Gold Coast with his girlfriend.
"There is no point being angry or holding a grudge," he said of his unexpected sacking.
"I was a bit frustrated because I thought I was good enough to deserve a ride. I did finish fourth in the championship, which was pretty good.
"But that is life. If I am not racing then there must be a reason for it and I am OK with that.
"The most important thing is I am back racing and although it is late in the season it is still a good opportunity. Now I am just focused on these two races and we will see about 2008 later."
Despite linking with a new team late in the season, Philippe said he can still become the first two-time winner in the history of the Gold Coast race. He and Conquest Racing, his team this weekend, are not exactly strangers. He drove for them in 2004 and '05.
In 2005 and again last year he was judged by peers the most improved driver in the series.
"Sure it can be done," he said of winning Sunday's race.
"That is the beauty of Champ Cars.
"You can have the worst car or best, but if you keep your nose clean and push and push there is always a way.
"That's what so great about this series.
"It is all about a never give up attitude, and that is how I am.
"So I feel pretty confident. I know it will be very, very difficult (to win) and I am not being arrogant. But it is achievable."