PORTLAND ATLANTIC OPEN TEST PACED BY TOP SERIES ROOKIE SIMON PAGENAUD PORTLAND, Oregon (June 14, 2006) -- Although more than half of the 26-car Champ Car Atlantic Championship field that tested Wednesday at Portland International Raceway had...
PORTLAND ATLANTIC OPEN TEST PACED BY TOP SERIES ROOKIE SIMON PAGENAUD
PORTLAND, Oregon (June 14, 2006) -- Although more than half of the 26-car Champ Car Atlantic Championship field that tested Wednesday at Portland International Raceway had previous experience competing on the fast road circuit, a driver making his first-ever trip to Portland set the mark for the others to top.
Continuing to prove that he's a quick learner and, well, just quick - Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia led all Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda testers at the PIR circuit by recording a fast lap of 1:05.154 (108.518 mph). As Pagenaud and the rest of the Atlantic drivers prepared for this weekend's Trinity Carpet 100k event at the G.I. Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland by turning in a full day of testing Wednesday, it became clear that a certain Frenchman likes what he sees in his maiden visit to Portland.
Pagenaud was fourth-fastest in the morning test session at the 1.964-mile PIR course but, as he's done throughout the first three rounds of Atlantic competition this season, he adapted quickly to a course that's new to him establishing a blistering time in the afternoon. The 22-year-old racer's fast lap wound up being more than two-tenths-of-a-second quicker than the next-fastest time recorded on the day.
"This track looks a lot like some of the European tracks that I'm used to," said Pagenaud, a native of Montmorillon, France who was the series runner-up in the 2004 Formula Renault European Championship. "We weren't so good at the beginning of the day but we found quite a good balance in the car in the afternoon. When the car is good like that you feel like you can do whatever you want. This was good for everyone's confidence on the team heading into this weekend."
That confidence could mean trouble for the rest of the Atlantic competitors at Portland. Already leading the rookie standings while sitting second in the overall championship rundown heading into Portland and coming off back-to-back second-place finishes in his last two races, Pagenaud is shooting for his first Atlantic victory in Sunday's 40-lap race.
He'll certainly need to earn that win against some of the world's top young racing talents, however. Brazilian Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks), for example, is hoping that he can walk away from Portland with his first series victory. Looking for a strong finish at PIR after tough results in Rounds 2 and 3, Matos owned the second-fastest laps in both the morning and afternoon sessions. The Sierra Sierra Enterprises pilot checked in with a top time on the day of 1:05.394 (108.120 mph).
"The day was very good for us," said Matos. "We experimented with a lot of different things. We worked on race set up, we managed the tires well and I think we definitely have a good setup for qualifying."
Forsythe Championship Racing's Leonardo Maia topped the testing sheets in the morning and he wound up with the third-fastest combined time of 1:05.435 (108.052 mph). "We still have a lot of work to do, though," cautioned Maia, currently ranked 10th in the series standings. "The FCR team is the best in the business and I know they're going to give me a good car this weekend and it's up to me to drive it and get the most out of it."
With a fast lap of 1:05.585 (107.805 mph) established in the morning session, 17-year-old rookie Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) clocked the fourth-fastest testing time. Coming off his first Atlantic win last round at Monterrey, Mexico, Rahal is hoping to improve on his third-place standing in the championship at PIR, where he captured the checkered flag in Star Mazda competition last season.
James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) of Forsythe Racing completed a power-packed top five from testing as he carded a quick lap of 1:05.713 (107.595 mph) in the afternoon session. His teammate and Atlantic Championship leader Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) owned a top lap of 1:05.984 (107.153 mph) -- good enough for sixth in the day's overall rundown.
Round 4 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship officially gets underway on Friday at Portland with practice and the opening round of qualifying for the Trinity Carpet 100k Atlantic race. Follow all of this weekend's action from PIR through the Official Web Site of North America's premier open-wheel development series, www.champcaratlantic.com.