FedEx Championship Series Happenings
Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, December 13, 2001
Team KOOL Green became the first FedEx Championship Series team to test the 2002 Honda Reynard equipment package when Paul Tracy spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the cockpit at Sebring International Raceway.
Tracy turned a total of 233 laps on the 1.68-mile road course during the two-day test, recording an unofficial best lap time of 52 seconds flat. Tracy's best and most consistent lap times came on the second day of the test, when race engineer Steve Challis attempted a variety of aerodynamic settings to fine tune the car's balance.
"I like the reliability of the new car and I'm generally happy with the package," Tracy said afterward. "Reynard has made some improvements, and I think right of the truck this car is better than the '01 model. There are no big differences in the car, but I feel it's generally better. We still need to work hard this winter and there is still a lot of work to do, but I'm very encouraged after this test."
Team Manager Kyle Moyer was delighted with the performance of the new car.
"One week after we took delivery of the car, we had it on the track and it didn't have a single failure," Moyer said. "Reynard has paid a lot of attention to detail and made some minor changes in the aero and mechanical designs. The car ran flawlessly both days and Paul didn't put a wheel off course."
The Honda Reynard has been returned to the team's Indianapolis race shop for painting before it travels to a Bridgestone tire test on December 17 and 18 at California Speedway.
* AARWBA NAMES ALL-AMERICA TEAM
Two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran and Dayton Indy Lights champion Townsend Bell earned First Team honors while series runner-up Kenny Brack and Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves were tabbed for the Second Team on the 2001 All-America Auto Racing Team selected by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA). The team will be honored on Saturday, January 12, during the annual AARWBA banquet in Pomona, Calif. De Ferran earned First Team honors in the Open Wheel division following a season which saw him become the fourth driver ever to win back-to-back CART championships, joining Rick Mears (1981, '82), Bobby Rahal (1986, '87) and Alex Zanardi (1997, '98). Bell earned an At Large berth to join de Ferran on the First Team, while Brack and Castroneves swept both spots on the Open Wheel Second Team. Brack led the series in wins (4) and pole positions (6), while Castroneves spearheaded a sweep of the top five positions by FedEx Championship Series drivers in the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500.
De Ferran, Brack and Castroneves received further honors Wednesday when they were named to the third annual CART FedEx Championship Series All-Star Team, joined by Michael Andretti and Cristiano da Matta. Joining Brack and Castroneves on AARWBA's Second Team was CART Toyota Atlantic champion Hoover Orsi, selected to an At Large berth. De Ferran and Castroneves were also among the 16 honorees called to the stage during Sports Illustrated's first-ever "Night of Champions" Monday evening at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Hosted by sportscaster Bob Costas, the program featured presentation of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award to pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling of the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
* HERDEZ COMPETITION TABS DOMINGUEZ
Herdez Competition announced last week that native Mexican Mario Dominguez has been selected to drive the team's Ford-powered Lola in the 2002 FedEx Championship Series. Dominguez recently completed his third season in the Dayton Indy Lights championship, finishing fourth while driving for the PacWest Lights team. He is a former champion with the Herdez Competition team in the Mexican Formula 3 series, and tested with the Herdez Champ Car team in November of last year. "We were impressed by Mario when we first tested him last year and believe he's earned this opportunity," said Herdez Competition Managing Director Keith Wiggins. "We've completed our first test in preparation for the 2002 season [November 28 and 29 at Sebring International Raceway] and we were once again pleased with the speed, competence and technical feedback that he displayed. He worked very well with the team and we are all excited to get started on the 2002 season." For the 26-year-old Dominguez, this opportunity represents the culmination of years of preparation. "I still can't believe it," he said. "I have put in a lot of hard work over the years and struggled to prove myself and now, finally, this opportunity has come. I definitely think that the test I did in 2000 was key for me in getting the ride for next year. I'm very, very happy to be continuing my relationship with Herdez and to be joining Team Herdez. I think it's a wonderful team that will give me all of the necessary tools to be competitive in the CART FedEx Championship Series next year." Dominguez is being formally introduced during a press conference today at the 2001 Mexican Auto Show at the World Trade Center Mexico.
* PLAYER'S TEAM LAUNCHES OFF-SEASON TESTING PROGRAM
Player's Forsythe Racing kicked off preparations for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season during a two-day test session last Wednesday and Thursday at Sebring International Raceway. Third-year driver Alex Tagliani completed approximately 150 laps over the two days in a 2001 Reynard equipped with a 2002 Ford Cosworth engine, which features a new seven-speed gearbox. Tagliani posted a best time of 51.9 seconds on the 1.68-mile permanent road course. "I'm very happy with the way things went this first time out," he said afterward. "We were able to try out a lot of new things, and that's what sessions like this are for. Physically, I feel great. I've been training hard in the off-season and when I got into the car, it felt like I hadn't missed a beat." Player's Forsythe Racing Technical Director Bruce Ashmore described the two days as "a productive session to get us into the testing mode. Alex came to the session really focused on what he had to do. Following the solid CART season he had in 2001 [Tagliani finished 11th in the championship and closed the season with back-to-back podium results of third at Australia and California Speedway] he has an air of confidence about him, and that was evident in the testing sessions." Patrick Carpentier, Tagliani's teammate, will be behind the wheel for the team's next test, December 18-19 at Sebring.
* MAIA CLAIMS BIG SCHOLARSHIP
Leonardo Maia of Oakland, Calif. emerged from a group of seven drivers to claim the $195,000 Barber-CART Big Scholarship following a two-day evaluation at Sebring International Raceway last week. The scholarship takes the form of a fully sponsored drive in the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series, one of the key components of CART's Ladder System of driver development.
The 21-year-old Maia qualified for an opportunity at the scholarship by virtue of his top-eight finish in the 2001 Formula Dodge National Championship, won by Brazilian Julio Campos, who also earned a fully funded Barber Dodge ride for 2002. Maia was selected by a panel of judges including Champ Car driver Bryan Herta, CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel, driver and commentator Tommy Kendall and Player's Racing driver coach Richard Spenard. Drivers were judged on speed, set-up ability, adaptability and communication skills. Maia led all four on-track test sessions in a group that also included Formula Dodge National Championship runner-up A.J. Allmendinger, Landon Yee, Scott Presti, Dan DiLeo, Juan Manuel Polar and Dan Kraus. "I can't even describe what I felt [after being announced as the scholarship winner]," Maia said. "Obviously, I'm incredibly happy ... overwhelmed. To have people like Herta, Kneifel, Kendall, Richard and the entire Skip Barber organization pick you, effectively saying 'You're the one we want to represent us,' is an incredible feeling." Said Herta, "Having gone through the program 10 years ago, it's great to see how it has grown. Skip continues to offer drivers the opportunity to advance on skill rather than money. I'm not surprised at the talent level, but I am surprised [to see] 18-to-20 year olds with such an understanding of the technical and marketing issues of this sport. They are more complete at their age because they've made the choice to develop themselves in that way."
* POIRIER PICKED FOR FORMULA DODGE SCHOLARSHIP
Scott Poirier of Deerfield Beach, Fla. earned a full-season ride in the 2002 Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER by virtue of his performance in last week's scholarship runoffs at Sebring International Raceway. The $45,000 scholarship was up for grabs among seven selected racers from four regions of the Skip Barber Race Series. Poirier, runner-up in the 2001 Southern Region, led three of the four on-track sessions to earn the scholarship from among a group of racers that included Gerardo Bonilla, Chris Baker, Daniel Lancaster, Mike Marino, Ben Moore III and Andy Newell. The Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER has been designated as the Official Amateur National Championship of CART. "Thanks to the entire Skip Barber Organization for putting on this competition and giving us the opportunity to move up the CART Ladder," Poirier said. "I'm looking forward to competing in next year's National Championship against these guys [his fellow scholarship candidates]. It's a really tough series and I'm going to give it my best."
* "STARS OF TOMORROW" COMPLETE SUCCESSFUL CHAMP CAR TEST
Despite an uncharacteristically cold Arizona day, the four CART "Stars of Tomorrow" karting champions successfully completed their one-day test Monday at Firebird Raceway in Team Rahal's Lola Champ Car. The Champ Car test was part of the award given to the quartet for placing either first or second in the 2001 "Stars of Tomorrow" 125cc SuperPro or Rotax Max classes. The lucky young drivers were Americans Scott Speed, Colin Fleming, Chris Carmody and Matt Jaskol. Each driver was given a total of 20 laps on the track, broken into two 10-lap segments. The karters were debriefed after each session and received a data printout of their performance at the end of the day. "For the lack of any better words, this was so awesome," commented Speed, the 125cc SuperPro Champion. "You put the power down and boom, it's on! I knew that was going to be the case coming into the test, but until you experience it, you have absolutely no idea at all." Said Fleming, the Rotax Max Champion, "I had to fight my instincts out there today. There is so much power at your fingertips, it is essential to be smooth with the throttle or you are going to spin coming off the of the corners." Team Rahal Coordinator Bill Van de Sandt complimented the four on their performances. "They did really well out there today," he said. "Despite some tough conditions early on, they kept their calm and steadily improved. I was very impressed." While this was each driver's first foray into a Champ Car, all have spent time in a Formula Car. Each was given a three-day Skip Barber Racing School as part of his prize package in the "Stars" program. In addition, Fleming, Carmody and Jaskol are scheduled participants in the Barber CART Karting Scholarship Runoff at Sebring, FL on January 3rd and 4th. Four drivers will earn a fully funded season in the Formula Dodge National Championship. Speed was an original invitee to the Runoff but has already earned a ride in the FDNC by being the champion of the Star's 125cc SuperPro class.