HVM Inc., the Mexican-owned Champ Car World Series team managed by Briton Keith Wiggins since 2001, announced today that it has chosen two Scandinavian drivers to pilot its brace of Lola/Ford- Cosworth/Bridgestone entries for the 2005 Champ Car season that begins this weekend with the 31st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
2003 FIA Formula 3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim from Vaxjo, Sweden will pilot the #4 machine while Copenhagen native Ronnie Bremer, a Toyota Atlantic Championship graduate takes the helm of HVM''s #55 car.
"This has been a most interesting road for us over the winter," Wiggins acknowledged. "We've been through a lot of changes here and things came together late for HVM. Still, we believe we have the strongest lineup ever for our team and believe we have picked the best drivers and package" toward attaining the Vanderbilt Cup emblematic of a series champion.
Wirdheim, 25, has been working toward a Champ Car career over the past few years and previously tested with Patrick Racing, PKV Racing and Dale Coyne Racing prior to joining Gasoline Alley-based HVM. Wirdheim's familiarity with the 800 horsepower Champ cars will assist in beginning with his new team this coming weekend.
Last season he served as test/reserve driver for the Jaguar Formula One squad and wanted to get back to competing rather than testing.
"I've been looking to Champ Car for a long time," Wirdheim said. "This series has been at the top of my list and I look forward to the interesting races on the Champ Car calendar. I can't wait for Long Beach," he admitted, "because I really enjoy racing on street circuits.
"This series is turning around and there are a good group of people involved with Champ Car. No doubt this is the place to be as I can see the series getting better every year," Wirdheim noted.
Competing for his third Rookie of the Year title of his racing career, Wirdheim believes the Champ Car combination "will suit me as a driver. I am confident this is the place to be with some of the most competitive racing in the world." He won the F3000 title with Arden Motorsports and currently resides in Aylesbury, England.
Bremer competed in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2003 and debuted well at the Long Beach, starting seventh and finishing fourth. "This is a great opportunity to join HVM; the cars are good, the Cosworth engines are reliable; the Bridgestone tires have plenty of grip," the 26-year-old Dane declared.
Bremer's period of adjustment to the bigger Champ cars might be a bit more pronounced than that of his new teammate but he has an advantage on Wirdheim in that Bremer is familiar with many of the tracks on which the Champ Car World Series competes.
"Although I had only one test day at Sebring [last week], this team is so professional that I really don't see any problems in adjusting" to his new situation as a Champ Car rookie. Bremer's diversified racing experience includes Danish Touring Car Championship, British Formula 3 and Formula Ford.
"This is a dream come true for me. Champ Car has been a goal of mine since I started racing and I can't wait to get started in Long Beach," Bremer crowed. "I had a very good test with HVM in Sebring and was impressed with their teamwork and communication. The engineering staff is top-notch; I knew this was the team I wanted to drive for."
Both Wirdheim and Bremer believe they can each push the other to succeed and that their presence may entice even more Europeans over to the US-based Champ Car World Series to join F3000 former champs Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira, among others.
Champ Car's popularity has grown in the Scandinavian region as there are currently no Formula One competitors from that area and now that Kenny Brack no longer drives an open wheel car. "In Denmark people know about Champ Car and it should be even bigger now that I here. There are a lot of people who will want to see two Scandinavian drivers in this series," Bremer stated.
The lack of "driver aids" such as those he used in Formula One don't bother Wirdheim a bit. "that's what I really like about Champ Car. The driver is important and I really enjoy to work in the cockpit. I think we're looking very good for the championship this year," not to mention Roshfrans Rookie of the Year.
HVM, Inc. retains the services of team manager Vince Kremer and technical director Tom Brown for the 2005 season. Race engineers Will Phillips (#4) and Michael Cannon (#55) have also been retained by the team. Mark Mason handles crew chief duties for Wirdheim's #4 car and Daryl Fox carries the crew chief load for the #55 of Bremer.
This team has recorded three victories and eight podium finishes in only four years. While the drivers have personal sponsorship, Wiggins stated the team's additional commercial partnerships are close, but not quite ready to be announced. "We have one or two small deals we're still working on and we will announce those at a later date," he said.
"There's a lot of competition for funding out there," Wiggins continued. "Now that the television package for Champ Car is complete and people know where to find us I think the commercial viability is better. European drivers are attracted to Champ Car at this time and their presence" should help the series rebuild its core fan base, Wiggins believes.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins the 14-event campaign on Champ Car's docket and will be shown on NBC television in the United States. The Scandinavian countries have coverage from Eurosport TV.