CHAMPCAR/CART: Long break leads to interesting tidbits and rides

The month-long gap in between Champ Car events at Road America and Surfer's Paradise have yielded several newsworthy items. For starters, Ryan Briscoe's appointment at RuSPORT was confirmed earlier in the week. Rocketsports announced they will run...

The month-long gap in between Champ Car events at Road America and Surfer's Paradise have yielded several newsworthy items. For starters, Ryan Briscoe's appointment at RuSPORT was confirmed earlier in the week. Rocketsports announced they will run their second car the last two races for Antonio Pizzonia, giving the ex-F1 driver a couple more events to prove himself for a potential full-time seat in 2007. That guarantees an 18-car field the last two events - it's not a huge deal but there have been many occurrences this season where just 17 or 16 Lolas rolled off the starting grid. The Lolas will be retired after the finale in Mexico City.

Today it was announced German driver Andreas Wirth will step into the #19 Sonny's BBQ entry for Dale Coyne Racing at Surfer's. Wirth won the first two races this season in the Champ Car Atlantic series for Forsythe Championship Racing. With Mario Dominguez's departure from the team after Montreal, Coyne has filled his car on a race-by-race basis. Uruguayan driver Juan Caceres ran the last event at Elkhart Lake.

Wirth has compiled an impressive résumé to this stage. He won the Formula BMW USA crown in 2004 prior to making his Atlantic debut last year. He finished 6th overall in 2005 and 3rd this year behind Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal, both of whom should pilot Champ Car's new Panoz DP01 chassis next season. Wirth scored six podiums this season in Atlantics but fell out of title contention with a midseason run of four finishes of 12th or worse in six races.

"I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity," Wirth commented. "Australia will be new for me, but I have a good feeling with the car and the team and hope to show well in my rookie debut." Wirth recently tested for Coyne at a track not far from the team's base of Plainfield, IL.

Coyne has a penchant for giving young drivers an opportunity to prove themselves, particularly at the end of the season. "We have watched Andreas progress all this year and after finishing 3rd in this the most competitive season of all in Atlantics, it was only natural to give him a chance at Champ Cars," he said. "Our goal in these last few races is to better prepare for 2007 and we would love to work with a driver of Andreas's skill in the future."

Meanwhile Katherine Legge will be counting her blessings for being able to race another day, after her savage accident at Road America. Since the crash, Legge made numerous appearances on television and answered the same questions from all the interviewers. As she has carried herself during the season, she handled the questions with class and an upbeat attitude. Only days afterwards she participated in a test at Sebring in a backup chassis and posted competitive times.

Sebastien Bourdais will wrap up his third consecutive series championship so long as he carries a 36-point lead out of Australia. He currently leads A.J. Allmendinger by 58 markers. Bourdais will have clinched all three of his titles outside the United States.

Allmendinger has of course been off gallivanting in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck ranks with Toyota and doing a fine job, posting a 5th place his last race at Talladega. It has also been rumored team owner Gerry Forsythe has left a five-year offer on the table to remain driving his Champ Cars. Will the lure of Allmendinger's personal sponsor, Red Bull, and the notoriety of driving full-time in NASCAR prompt the five-time winner this season to jump ship? Or will he continue as a Champ Car star who is the best thing to happen to the series since Alex Zanardi? Time will tell. and on that note there's still another week and a half before the thunder Down Under in Surfer's.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Alex Zanardi , Graham Rahal , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Ryan Briscoe , Andreas Wirth , Juan Caceres , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing