Podium Payback for Wirth in Season Finale at Road America Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin -- September 25, 2006 --Having experienced his share of hard times in the last half of the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic season, Andreas Wirth had yet one more nemesis...
Podium Payback for Wirth in Season Finale at Road America
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin -- September 25, 2006 --Having experienced his share of hard times in the last half of the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic season, Andreas Wirth had yet one more nemesis to face - Road America. Returning to the scene of the accident that ended his rookie season in the Atlantics, two races early, Wirth was determined to conquer. Feeling somewhat cheated, Andreas felt that the track at Road America 'owed him one', and that this weekend would be an exceptional one.
Wirth couldn't have been more right. Going into the final round of competition on the longest and fastest track on the season calendar along side some of the top rising stars of open-wheel racing, Andreas knew that the challenge was huge -- this was his last chance to shine in one of motorsport's most competitive series. However, surrounded by the love and support of a paddock full of friends and family, Wirth went into the weekend with determination and confidence that he would make it to the podium once again.
With a less than promising weather forecast on the horizon for the weekend, the Atlantic young guns hit the picturesque Elkhart Lake track with a splash for morning practice and provisional qualifying. In spite of his lack of experience in the wet at Road America, Wirth made the best of the situation as the Forsythe Atlantic Team gambled on set ups and anticipated a drying track. Less than ecstatic with his third place provisional qualifying result, Wirth commented; "I'm pretty happy with third, but not completely satisfied. Setting up the car in conditions like this is a bit of guesswork, but my guys are great, and they got it close to perfect. Being on the softer set up we were really hoping to see the track dry a bit more -- if it had, I think we could have really challenged for Pole today." Continuing on about his expectations for the weekend, Andreas said, "This is where I had my season-ending accident last year in warm up, so this place owes me one for sure! They're calling for better weather tomorrow, so we'll be pushing hard to put the #37 car on Pole for the last race."
As the day unfolded on Saturday, clear skies and optimism abounded as the final practice session began. Clocking the second fastest time in practice under dry conditions, Wirth was pleased that the weekend seemed to be looking up. Unfortunately though, as predicted, rain put a damper on final qualifying with intermittent showers and the disruption of red flags. Qualifying fourth in the final session left Andreas sitting in fifth place on the starting grid for Sunday's season finale. Commenting on the day, Andreas said, "It's really frustrating that we had rain. The car was balanced and was running great. If it weren't for the weather and the Red Flags I know we had a shot at Pole for sure today. I was on the fastest lap of the whole field when the red flag came out - it was just unfortunate because the team gave me the car I needed to get there. What can I say? At least we're up front for our last race! Like I said, this place owes me one, and I intend to go out on a high, so it will be a maximum attack for sure! I really love this track, and I want to win this thing tomorrow!"
Despite the sunny skies and picture perfect day served up in Wisconsin for the final round of Champ Car Atlantic competition, Andreas Wirth's mood was expectedly pensive. Reflecting on his turn one accident in warm up at Road America in 2005, Wirth admitted before he climbed into his car, that the thought did cross his mind that his time may have been better served sleeping in and skipping the morning's warm up session. However, as the #37 Forsythe Racing entry hit its marks in the pit box with the second fastest time of the morning, a small sense of accomplishment was felt and sighs of relief were heard.
As promised, the twelfth and final round of Champ Car Atlantic competition was riveting. As the field of 23 launched into turn one from a standing start for the eighth time this season, exhilarating wheel-to-wheel battles immediately got under way, resulting in an action-packed and incident-filled grand finale. Due to attrition, Andreas Wirth moved from fifth to second place during the first half of the race. Despite his best efforts to challenge for the lead, caution periods on the long 4.08 mile track resulted in less grip on cold tires and a much more difficult fight for first. Unfortunately for Wirth, he was unable to make his attack on the race-leader stick, overshooting the braking zone in turn five and going wide, leaving himself vulnerable to be overtaken by the two cars that were hot on his trail, resulting in a very respectable third place podium finish. Commenting on the race, Wirth said, "The beginning was great, but towards the middle, the car began to understeer a lot and I couldn't get a good shot out of the corners toward the straights. We just couldn't get the tires up to temperature properly because of all the cautions. It just killed me at the end, because we were hoping to get a good run and pull alongside the leaders so I could fly past them. Unfortunately, when I was behind the other guys, I ran out of gear. I pushed as hard as I could, I was on the limit and couldn't pull out. I'm happy to finish the season on the podium, even if it is in third place. My guys worked really hard all year, so it feels good to give them one more strong result."
Wrapping up his comments on what was surely one of the most significant and most competitive seasons in Atlantic Championship history, Wirth had this to say; "It was a really great season overall, and I'm proud to have been a part of it. This was a really important year for the Atlantics, and it was awesome to compete in such a fantastic series. Since becoming the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Champion was obviously my goal, I can't say that I'm totally satisfied to finish third overall, but it's a nice achievement for the team on their first year back in the Atlantics. I really have to say how much I appreciate everything that Jerry (Forsythe), Peter (Davies) and John (Brunner) did to put such a great team together this year. All the guys on the team, the mechanics, the engineers, the people in the office and hospitality -- everyone has just been the best! I have to say a special thank you to my Engineer, Nick ( Harvey) -- he has been just awesome -- I don't know what I'd have done without him. Really, I can't thank everyone at Forsythe Championship Racing enough! We've all had a lot of fun this year, and I've enjoyed racing along side Richard (Philippe), Leo (Maia) and James (Hinchcliffe) -- it's been a blast! So, thank you again to everyone involved -- the team, the series and the fans - it was an awesome season!"
-credit: Andreas Wirth Racing