CHAMPCAR/CART: Marques, Servia secure rides with Coyne Racing

Dale Coyne finally secured two viable drivers for his two-car 2004 Champ Car World Series team and announced them this morning prior to initial practice for the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Veteran Champ Car and open wheel stars Oriol Servia and Tarso Marques will drive the #11 Lola/Ford and the #19 American Medical Response (AMR) Lolas, respectively in this year's competition, debuting this weekend.

Oriol Servia.
Photo by Anne Proffit.
Brazilian star Marques signed his contract just last weekend, hours before he was slated to sign for the Mercedes-Benz DTM touring car team. "This is where I wanted to race," the 28-year-old driver said. "This all came together quickly with Dale, but when the opportunity came to get back into single seaters, which is my love," he jumped at the chance.

Marques did off-season testing for Coyne in 1999, at that time helping develop the Swift chassis. He signed to drive Formula One, but despite a two-year contract the team he was working with never took to the grid, leaving Marques with a two-year vacation instead. He's kept in shape over that time and, in initial practice on the California Speedway road course earlier this week was quickly on the pace.

"I have a lot of confidence in this team. It took all of five-to-ten minutes to put this deal together," Tarso explained. AMR, the largest ambulance service in the United States decided to partner the #19 car in the Champ Car Word Series in order to make their name more broadly known in the country because they, too, are about safety and speed, CEO Bill Sanger said.

Spaniard Oriol Servia, also 28, returns to the Champ cars after a busy winter working to put together a ride for the 2004 season. His sponsor for the #11 Lola is a new enterprise. Web-based broadcaster has signed for the 2004-5 seasons.

The website launches May 21st and will broadcast 24-hour programming, with new content including a reality show called "The Drive," showcasing Coyne's - and other teams' - challenges to prepare, practice, qualify and race in the highly-competitive Champ Car series. That show will air on CMT (Country Music TV) in June, according to CEO Brent Meikle.

Servia is "glad to be part of this new venture." His familiarity with the Lola, Ford-Cosworth and Bridgestone suppliers in Champ Car will allow him, Servia believes to be competitive from the start. Marques allowed, "I have a great teammate in Oriol, who is very fast and experienced."

Coyne had been working fast and furiously to get these two programs together and expects to have four cars ready for his two drivers by the Monterrey round. They have only two on-site this week.

"Last year was very difficult for us. We had to find sponsors to bridge the gap to be competitive," Coyne admitted. "We realized what we needed to do to elevate our team and we are so pleased to find these really nice sponsors.

"We think things are going in the right direction here with costs down, making this series much more attractive to major sponsors like these two companies. We have," Coyne declared, "two fine drivers here with unfinished business. We're looking forward to a really good season."