PACIFICARE DRIVER JUNQUEIRA COMPLETED FIRST DAY OF CHAMP CAR TESTING SINCE ACCIDENT IN THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 OVER SIX MONTHS AGO
SEBRING, Fla. (December 12, 2005) -- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira drove a race car for the first time today at Sebring International Raceway since recovering from fractures to his T-12 and L-1 vertebras sustained in an accident in the Indy Racing League-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 on May 29. It was his first time behind the wheel of a Champ Car since May 22 when he drove to victory in the Tecate / Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico and took over the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford point standings after Round 2 of 14. He was runner-up to the Champion in 2002, 2003 and 2004 in the Champ Car series.
"I felt really good today," said Junqueira. "I was able to do more than I planned throughout the day and that was very exciting after being away for so long. I never thought I wouldn't be able to drive the car as well as before but it's nice to actually do it. I'm really happy with the result and I feel good. Before the test I thought I would be happy with a 52.5 lap time but I ran a 51.17 so I am very, very happy!"
Junqueira and Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) began testing at approx. 9:45 a.m. ET today in cold conditions on a green race track and completed 42 laps around the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway before stopping for a lunch break. The testing resumed at approx. 2 p.m. ET and Junqueira ran another 25 laps in the primary PacifiCare race car and 10 laps in the back-up car before concluding his first test day with pit stop practice at approx. 4 p.m. He completed a total of 127 miles of testing and set a best lap time of 51.1. Team co-owner Paul Newman attended the test. The team will resume testing on Wednesday.
"Our plan was to just get Bruno back in the car and comfortable today," said John Tzouanakis, team manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "He was able to get comfortable in the car and up to speed quicker than we had hoped and now we will try to build on the progress with more seat time on Wednesday. Everyone was excited for him and all that he accomplished today after being out of the car for so long. It's good to have him back in the car."
Since his accident, Junqueira has devoted his time to returning to his prior fitness regime of cycling, weight training and Pilates and bettered his personal best time on the bicycle last week. More than four other cars were on track today as drivers were testing in preparation for the 2006 season-opening Champ Car race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, 2006 as well as trying out for various teams.
Newman/Haas Racing LLC, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, is the most successful team competing in the Champ Car World Series and second most successful open-wheel racing team overall. Marlboro Team Penske has 124 open-wheel wins in 38 seasons while NHR has 90 in 23 seasons. The team will begin their 24th season in Champ Car competition in 2006 and will attempt to score their seventh overall title after winning 90 races and 92 pole positions.
Current drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira were preceded at the team by Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta as well as 2005 driver Oriol Servia. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.brunojunqueira.com, www.sebastien-bourdais.com, www.oriolservia.com or www.champcarworldseries.com.