CHAMPCAR/CART: Brands Hatch: European homecoming for NHR drivers

Newman/Haas Racing heads to the United Kingdom for the London Champ Car Trophy - European homecoming for drivers Junqueira and Bourdais. LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (April 29, 2003) --- Although Newman/Haas Racing's (NHR) duo of Bruno Junqueira and ...

Newman/Haas Racing heads to the United Kingdom for the London Champ Car Trophy - European homecoming for drivers Junqueira and Bourdais.

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (April 29, 2003) --- Although Newman/Haas Racing's (NHR) duo of Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais have never raced on the short course at the historic Brands Hatch circuit, their return to England will signal a homecoming of sorts. Bruno Junqueira, driver of the No. 1 PacifiCare race car and Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 2 Lilly race car have both achieved success while competing in Europe. Frenchman Bourdais, 24, is the reigning FIA Formula 3000 Champion and Brazilian Junqueira, 26, earned the title in 2000 before moving to the Champ Car World Series the following season.

Both are looking forward to competing in the London Champ Car Trophy, Round 4 of 19 in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series on Monday, May 5 -- a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. The event will mark the third consecutive year that Champ Cars have competed in the United Kingdom as well as their first on a road course in the country since Rick Mears won the 1978 event at Brands Hatch. Races were held in 2001 and 2002 at the Rockingham Motor Speedway oval track in Corby, England.

With three top-five finishes including two podium appearances in the first three events of 2003, Junqueira took over second place in the standings after the third of 19 races. Only Junqueira and points leader Paul Tracy have completed every lap so far this year with Tracy holding a 26 point lead (64 to 38) on Junqueira with a maximum of 23 points available in the upcoming event. Junqueira is looking forward to the new challenge that the 1.2-mile short course at Brands Hatch will provide.

"When I raced in F3000 I used to live in England and I really enjoyed my time there," said Junqueira who lived in England for three years from 1998-2000. "The only track that I really raced on in England was Silverstone because we raced with the Formula One series. I still have friends there so I am looking forward to racing in England again. I have never raced at Brands Hatch but I watched a friend race there. It's a pretty cool track that looks very fast especially Turn 1 and it has some other nice corners. It is a short course and we are going to lap very fast around the track. I'm anxious to go there and put in some fast laps."

Not only is Junqueira eager to return to Europe, he is also looking forward to bringing Champ Car road racing back to the Europeans. "I think fans in the UK are road course fans," said Junqueira. "They are used to watching road course races like F1. When we race there on a road course, they're going to love it and because the track is just outside London it will be easy for them to get there. I really think they are going to love it! I think for sure that we are going to be the fastest cars that have raced there. I don't know how the race is going to go but I hope that the No. 1 PacifiCare car will be in front."

Despite earning the pole position in two of the three events so far this season as well as leading in all of them, rookie Sebastien Bourdais would like to improve on his overall race results. A brush with the wall in the first two events in St. Petersburg and Mexico as well as an engine failure in Long Beach contributed to his ranking of 16th place with a top finish of 11th in the season opener in St. Petersburg. After having spent 99 percent of his racing career in Europe, he is looking forward to returning to race there as well as the prospect of experiencing his first trouble-free event.

"It will be fun to return to Europe to race," said Bourdais who was born in Le Mans, France. "I don't know exactly how many family members and friends are coming to the race but it will be around 30. This will be their best opportunity to see me race because most of the events are too far away from them so it will be exciting for me. I think the Brands Hatch course will produce tight racing because of the length of the track. It will be really nice for the fans because the can basically see the entire course. I don't think the top-speed will be very high but we can put on an exciting race for the fans. I think oval racing is still a bit hard to understand for the Europeans so I think they will enjoy having the Champ cars race on a road course. To have the race take place so close to London is good as well."

Although a few drivers in the series have experience on the short course at Brands Hatch, the entire field will face a new challenge as the Champ Car World Series has implemented two competition rule changes for Brands Hatch. Qualifying, traditionally two timed sessions on road/street circuits featuring all drivers on track, will now consist of single car qualifying on both Saturday and Sunday with each driver permitted six laps [four of which are timed] to produce their fastest time. The second rule change affects the mandatory pit stop interval that required a driver to make a pit stop every set number of laps. For the Brands Hatch race weekend, this has been changed to two mandatory green flag stops at the driver and team's discretion. In addition, the sanctioning body has stipulated that race car configurations for the Brands Hatch road course and the oval track in Germany stay the same with minimal changes.

The competition will be fierce on the historic track but Junqueira and Bourdais will attempt to score the first win of the season for NHR as well as the first for the team since Oct. 6, 2002 when da Matta drove to victory and clinched the 2002 Championship. Before either driver can accomplish this, they will need to prevent Paul Tracy from becoming only the fourth driver to match a CART record for four consecutive wins after the Canadian drove to victory in all three of the 2003 events to date. Newman/Haas Racing's Cristiano da Matta was the most recent driver to accomplish the feat with wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago, and Toronto last season. Al Unser Jr. (1990) and Alex Zanardi ('98) also earned the honor. Victory was in sight for NHR in at least two of the three races so far this season but victory has eluded CART's most successful active team.

Coverage of the London Champ Car Trophy will be available live via the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com. CBS will air a one-hour preview show on Sunday, May 4 at 12 noon. The event will be televised on a tape-delayed basis by CBS on May 10 at 1 p.m. All times are Eastern.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta