WHO'S HOT * Rookie Sebastien Bourdais ( ...
* Rookie Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing finally parlayed a front-row starting position into a win, collecting his first-ever Champ Car victory at Brands Hatch last weekend. The Frenchman had previously recorded poles in the first two races in St. Petersburg, Florida and Monterrey, Mexico, but failed to finish either race in the top 10. The victory in England boosts the 2002 FIA International F3000 champion into sixth in points with 27 as the field regroups this Sunday at EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the German 500. In addition, Bourdais scored championship points for pacing the final round of qualifying and leading the most laps in the London Champ Car Trophy, and leads the chase for Rookie of the Year over Brazilian Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing.
* Canadian Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing gained another championship point at Brands Hatch by snagging the pole position for the first time since Michigan in 2000, adding to his four-race streak of front row starting positions. The Thrill from West Hill retired as a result of mechanical gremlins on Lap 118 of 165 to finish 17th, but comes to Germany with the points lead (65) and a Player's/Forsythe Racing squad that is looking to rebound from the recent disappointment. Tracy has also led the most laps this season having paced the field 227 of 445 times.
* Brazil's Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made it a one-two sweep at Brands with his third podium in four races for Newman/Haas Racing team owners Carl Haas and Paul Newman, and moved into second in points behind Tracy with 54. Junqueira comes to the impressive German superspeedway after posting top-five results in all four rounds of the Champ Car World Series, and is the only competitor to have completed all 445 laps contested.
* Mexico was well represented in England with sophomore Herdez Competition pilot Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who had a third place run and his first podium since crossing the line first in Surfers Paradise, Australia last season. Dominguez is currently locked up with Brazilian teammate Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for seventh in points with 24 each. The veteran Moreno turned in an impressive drive in England, coming from the 12th starting position on the grid to finish seventh.
* The Patrick Racing team delivered with Spaniard Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the UK, posting their first top five finish of the season with a solid fourth place effort. Servia stands 12th in points with 14 after being plagued with results of 12th, 18th and 12th in the first three rounds.
* Canada's Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) picked up the slack for his fellow countryman and Player's teammate Tracy in Round 4 with a charge to fifth after staring ninth. The result was the French Canadian's first top five of the year, and he comes to Germany in sole possession of fifth in points with 28.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* When the inaugural German 500 was run in 2001, several of the current crop of veteran drivers in the Champ Car World Series were on hand to push the limits on the daunting 2.023-mile superspeedway, including Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier, owner/driver Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Bruno Junqueira, Roberto Moreno, Oriol Servia, Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Rocketsports Racing and 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of American Spirit Team Johansson .
* Notable finishers included Carpentier who drove to the EuroSpeedway podium in third after starting ninth, and Servia who finished fifth after charging from 20th on the grid.
BY THE NUMBERS
* Qualifying was rained out for the inaugural German 500, giving points leader Gil de Ferran the pole position, minus the usual championship point, based on Champ Car point standings at the time. Kenny Brack won the Champ Car's first trip to Lausitz with an average speed of 155.319 mph over 154 laps, which covered 311.542 miles in just over two hours.
* Alex Zanardi, the 1997 and '98 CART champion, will make an unprecedented return to the cockpit of a 750hp Champ Car this weekend, less than two years after suffering the traumatic amputation of both legs during an accident at the 2001 Champ Car race at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, as he will be driving a specially-prepared race car with hand controls that will allow him to finish the final 13 laps of the race that he did not get to complete in 2001.
The car will be fitted with a hand clutch and throttle mechanism that will allow Zanardi to drive the laps around the two-mile superspeedway at speed, making the popular Italian champion the first driver to ever pilot a serious race car by using hand controls..."I am honored to serve as the Grand Marshal for the German 500 and look forward to seeing all of the Champ Car fans again," Zanardi said.
"It was always nice to be cheered by the crowd and it will be great to hear those cheers even through a symbolic effort such as this."...The idea was developed through the efforts of Champ Car Director of Technology Lee Dykstra and Adam Schaechter, who was a race engineer at Mo Nunn Racing when Zanardi raced with the team in 2001.
The Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone machine will be painted to match the #66 car that Zanardi was driving when he suffered his accident on Lap 142 of the 2001 event..."I'm really excited about this and the opportunity to do this with Alex because I know that it is something that he really wants to do," Schaechter said.
"The challenge really is just to make the car comfortable for Alex. Getting it to where he can drive it is not really a problem, and I know that he is not interested in doing anything half-measure. He will want to go flat out."...The task was made easier for the engineers after Zanardi sent a surprising report to Schaechter about a trip to a local karting track with his son and his nephew. As the boys were rocketing around the track, Alex was coaxed into trying a few laps.
His lower limb was secured to the brake pedal while he worked the throttle lever with his hand, but Zanardi found to his surprise that he could put enough pressure on the brake to get the car stopped and was immediately turning fast laps in the kart. He immediately sent an email message telling Schaechter of the development, which was a relief to the designers of the car controls..."The most difficult part for us was to find a way to get the car stopped that was going to be 100 percent reliable," Dykstra said. "We were experimenting with hydraulics when we found out that Alex could work the brake himself.
That made things much easier."...The fact that the car, which is being built and fielded by Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, with considerable help from Derrick Walker's organization, is running on a superspeedway makes the task a bit easier. The road-course wing package on the car means that Zanardi can run comfortably at top speed nearly all the way around the track.
Zanardi tested the car earlier this week prior to the Brands Hatch event, and the hand controls were tested last week in a private test at Indianapolis Raceway Park with 1991 Indy Lights champion Eric Bachelart at the wheel. The 15-time Champ Car race winner will also be re-licensed as an official series driver by Chief Steward Chris Kneifel.
Saturday-Sunday, May 10-11
CHAMP CAR SCHEDULE (All times local):
SATURDAY, MAY 10
Champ Car rookie practice, 9:15 - 9:40 a.m.
Champ Car practice, 9:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Champ Car qualifying, 2:30 - 4:00 p.m.
SUNDAY, MAY 11
Champ Car warmup, 10:00 - 10:30 a.m.
German 500, 2:00 p.m.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, MAY 10 - CBS Sports, London Champ Car Trophy, 1:00 p.m. ET
SUNDAY, MAY 11 - CBS Sports, German 500, 1:00 p.m. ET
NEXT EVENT: May 31, Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite, The Milwaukee Mile