Mi-Jack Conquest Racing continues 2005 preparations with testing in Sebring
Indianapolis, IN (December 23)--While many are scrambling to get their last-minute Christmas shopping done, the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team has been hard at work, preparing for the 2005 Champ Car season with some winter testing. This week, Brazilian ex-F3000 standout Ricardo Sperafico and French Porsche factory ace Romain Dumas took their first laps in a Champ Car in testing at Sebring International Raceway.
The test was a reunion of sorts, as Dumas and Sperafico had both tested with the team when it contested the Indy Lights series, and had kept in touch with affable team owner Eric Bachelart, who liked what he saw during the two days of running.
"Romain and Ricardo both did well, particularly considering it was the first time either of them had been in a Champ Car," said Bachelart. "I think both drivers are talented, and despite the fact that neither had been in open wheel cars for quite some time, they were on the pace quickly, and we were able to work through our program without any issues so it was very positive for the team."
Sperafico took a close look at competing in Indy Lights before making the commitment to race in Europe, where he scored the Italian F3000 championship in 2000 and went on to prove himself as a race winner in the F3000 ranks against drivers with names familiar to Champ Car fans including Sebastian Bourdais, Mario Haberfeld, and Justin Wilson. After taking second in the 2003 F3000 championship, he has been restless to get back into a competitive environment, and his first Champ Car experience left him looking for more.
"I think it was a good test after not being in a race car for so long," said Sperafico. "The car was very good-it has a lot more power than an F3000 car, and the brakes were also quite good too. This was a great opportunity for me, and I was really impressed with the team. It was good to be working with Eric again as well, so I am hoping that this is the start to a good relationship."
Dumas has an extensive open-wheel resume as well, as he took the runner-up spot in the 2002 European F3000 championship before making a one-off appearance with Scuadria Fortia in the Toyota Atlantics ranks in 2003. Dumas shared Sperafico's enthusiasm for his first introduction to Champ Car.
"We improved lap after lap, and my times kept coming down, so it was encouraging," said Dumas. "It's been quite some time since I have driven a car like this!" said Dumas, who took three wins this year in his Alex Job Porsche in the American Le Mans Series. "I wasn't that surprised by the engine-sure it's a lot of power, but it was ok to manage it. For me, it just took some time to find the limits of the car's braking. I wasn't really taking any risks, as I just wanted to focus on improving every lap."
Dumas believes that international interest in Champ Car is going to continue to increase, and that the new television package for the series, which will see several Champ Car races broadcast live in Europe, will only help.
"I am looking at several options for next season, and Champ Car would be a strong consideration for sure, and even more so with Bachelart, because we have a good relationship, and I was impressed with the team. Even though we were just testing, all the guys were working hard to improve the whole time and it was a very positive atmosphere."
Team owner Bachelart has been working hard to put his 2005 team line-up in place, and knows that he now has two more names on the list of possibilities.
"I have known these guys for quite a while, and this test confirmed the feeling that I had from working with them before--that they were both quick," said Bachelart. "It would be nice to work together with either of these drivers, they would both fit very well within the team with their attitudes and their talent."
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 Phillippe scoring two top-ten finishes after joining the team in the closing stages of the season. The team is looking forward to contesting its third season in the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, and is currently developing its plans for 2005.