Mi-Jack Conquest Racing tests five drivers in Sebring
A Swede, Belgian, Englishman, a Dutchman, and an Estonian get taste of Champ Car with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing
Indianapolis, IN (15 December 05)-- Mi-Jack Conquest Racing completed a successful test in Sebring this week as five young Champ Car hopefuls gained experience in Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Lolas. The test had an international flavor and showed the global interest in Champ Car as a Swede, Belgian, Englishman, Dutchman, and an Estonian participated in three days of testing at the Florida facility.
Belgian racer Jan Heylen, who won the Formula Ford Festival before stepping up to Formula 3 and International F3000, tested on Monday. Despite having raced to a championship this season in a closed-cockpit Renault Megane, he adapted quickly to the high-horsepower open-cockpit setting of a Champ Car.
"I was impressed with Jan, as he'd never even seen a Champ Car in person before, and it was his first time on this track," said Mi-Jack Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart. "He was up to speed very quickly and was able to perform consistently throughout the day, improving as the track got faster and he became more comfortable."
Monday also saw Englishman Dan Clarke, who took one win and seven podiums in British Formula 3 competition this season with Raikkonen Robertson Racing, on track for half a day before turning the car over to Swedish driver Alx Danielsson, who has graduated through the Renault ranks and competed with DAMS in the World Series by Renault this season. The two were able to continue their Champ Car acclimation on Tuesday as they once again split the day between them.
"It is quite a big step from Formula 3 to a Champ Car, and Dan ran without mistakes and did a good job given how different the two cars are," said Bachelart. "Danielsson has driven some cars with good power, and he was able to get used the Champ Car quite quickly."
2005 Toyota Atlantic presented by Yokohama Champion Charles Zwolsman tested with the team on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Zwolsman made his Champ Car debut in this season's finale event in Mexico City, and he put his previous experience in the car to work this week.
"The test went pretty good," said the 2005 Atlantic Champion, Zwolsman. "Every time we went out for a run we improved so that was very encouraging. It took me a while to settle into the car because we are running more downforce than I did in Mexico City. I took my time feeling out the car. I know I can go quicker, but I just need to put a whole lap together."
Wednesday was reserved for the two drivers who finished 1-2 in the Toyota Atlantic Championship as Tonis Kasemets of Estonia joined Zwolsman and made his second run in a Champ Car test. The day started off with difficulty, though, as Kasemets made contact after an off-course excursion and wasn't able to get the most out of himself or the car for the remainder of the day.
"It was a good test for the team, and while we didn't accomplish quite what we were hoping to with Tonis, the week was otherwise very straightforward," said Bachelart. "These kinds of tests are important to give drivers the chance to evaluate the possibility of moving to Champ Car, and they give us the chance to continue to work as a team and gain more experience. We are working to develop the business side of our program for next season, and will likely be testing again here in January as we work on 2006."
Mi-Jack Conquest Racing has a history of working with young drivers, and in 2005 campaigned Nelson Philippe and rookie Andrew Ranger, with Ranger scoring a podium in just the second Champ Car start of his career as Philippe closed out the season with a strong seventh in Mexico City. The team will also be making a two-car campaign in the Champ Car Atlantic series, and has already signed 16-year old Graham Rahal for next season.
1991 Indy Lights Champion Eric Bachelart started Conquest Racing in 1997 to compete in the Indy Lights series, scoring a podium finish with driver Christophe Tinseau in the team's first season. Conquest Racing competed in the next four seasons in Indy Lights, winning races with Felipe Giaffone and Kristian Kolby. Mike Lanigan, President of Mi-Jack Products, an intermodal Chicago-based company became a co-owner in 2002. Mi-Jack Conquest Racing contested the 2002 Indy Racing League season with rookie Laurent Redon, netting a podium finish in just the third race of the season and clinching the Rookie of the year award.
Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rejoined the Champ Car family in 2003, stepping up to the Champ Car World Series with Brazilian Mario Haberfeld and scoring eleven top-ten finishes despite competing with a Reynard. Mi-Jack Conquest Racing continued its tradition of working well with young drivers in 2004 as Justin Wilson took second in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year battle, with Nelson Philippe scoring two top-ten finishes after joining the team in the closing stages of the season. The team is looking forward to contesting its fourth season in the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, and is currently developing its plans for 2006.