CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Team Australia race report

MAIDEN PODIUM CLINCHES ROOKIE TITLE FOR WILL POWER IN MEXICO CITY Team Australia's Will Power became the first Australian to win the Champ Car Rookie of the Year award when he claimed his first Champ Car World Series podium finish in ...

MAIDEN PODIUM CLINCHES ROOKIE TITLE FOR WILL POWER IN MEXICO CITY

Team Australia's Will Power became the first Australian to win the Champ Car Rookie of the Year award when he claimed his first Champ Car World Series podium finish in today's final round in Mexico City, Mexico.

Power became the first Australian to claim a podium finish in the Champ Car World Series since Geoff Brabham finished third in the season finale in Miami, Florida on November 1, 1987.

Today's effort elevated Power into sixth place in the championship standings, the Queenslander becoming the highest finishing Australian in the Champ Car World Series standings, eclipsing Brabham's eighth place finishes in the championship in 1982, 1984 and 1987.

The result is Team Australia's third podium result for the year and Power's first in Champ Car, coming in only his 16th Champ Car race and just one event after his first pole position at his home event in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Power is the highest finishing rookie in the Champ Car World Series since AJ Allmendinger was also sixth overall in the 2004 championship.

Power started the race from fourth and spent the first half of the race in that position. The pivotal moment for Power came on lap 48 of the 66-lap event, when the Australian passed series veteran Bruno Junqueira down the inside to take third position.

From there the Toowoomba-born driver pulled away to be a clear third by the end of the race, an event that began in dry conditions before showers descended mid-race.

Power also collected the prestigious Bridgestone Passion For Excellence Award today, which honours the driver who completes the fastest aggregate race lap around every circuit on the 2006 Champ Car World Series schedule.

That is, if all 14 tracks were laid end to end, the driver with the fastest cumulative lap, based on his or her best race lap at each track, earns the Bridgestone Passion for Excellence Award.

This year marks the fourth time the award has been presented, but the first time someone other than three-time champion Sebastien Bourdais is the recipient.

Power actually clinched the Rookie of the Year title after just seven laps when his only remaining opponent, Dan Clarke, retired from the race with mechanical problems.

He then drove a consistent race and almost claimed a victory when leaders Sebastian Bourdais and Justin Wilson came together on the wet track on the last lap. Both survived the incident and went on to finish 1-2 respectively.

Power's team-mate Alex Tagliani also had a solid day and finished in fifth place, marking the first time Team Australia has had two car finish in the top five in it's two-year history in the Champ Car World Series.

Tagliani's solid result elevated the Canadian to eighth in the championship standings for 2006, making Team Australia one of only three teams to have both its drivers finish in the top 10 in this year's championship, the others being Newman/Haas Racing and Forsythe Championship Racing.

This fine result caps a remarkable season for Power and all of Team Australia, a year that has seen the outfit rise in stature, especially in the later stages of the season. Power's Roshfrans Rookie of the Year title adds to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship title that Team Australia's Simon Pagenaud won in September.

ATTENTION RADIO & BROADCAST MEDIA

Click on the link below for audio files of Will Power and Derrick Walker speaking from Mexico City after today's fantastic result.

Team Australia audio grabs from Mexico City

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY --

Will Power -- #5 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia Lola

"This is just an awesome result," said Power.

"It's a full credit to the team, Craig Gore and Derrick Walker.

"We've just got stronger and stronger as the year has gone by and to finish the year with a podium and the Rookie of the Year title is really good and a positive sign for next year.

"Wow, what can I say. What an incredible way to end the season on a high.

"It was just a really great day. The guys did a really good job on the strategy. When it started raining we got the rain tyres on early.

"We struggled in the first stint and lost some time, but in the wet we really came on strong. The last 14 laps were really relaxing and I was able to have fun.

"Towards the end the track had pretty much dried out and the wet tyres were getting a little worn, but you would have lost too much time coming in for slicks.

"We just worked for this, we worked hard all year and this is just awesome. I have to say thanks to all of Team Australia. This was an awesome result for them and they all deserve it."

Alex Tagliani -- #15 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia Lola

"I just want to start by thanking Team Australia," said Tagliani.

"We hit some rough spots and had a bit of misfortune during the season, but we came out on a positive note.

"The Aussie Vineyards car was great this weekend. We definitely had a competitive car and it's fantastic that the team was able to finish in the top five."

Derrick Walker -- Team Australia Co-Owner

"Today was the end to a really good year," said Walker.

"Team Australia came a long way this year and made a giant step forward and we are perfectly positioned to come out next year and really come on strong.

"I've got to give a special thanks to Craig Gore and congratulate him, because without Craig this wouldn't have been possible, I know he's not here, but I'm sure he's watching -- so good job Craig.

"It was a real team effort. The drivers did everything they could and the cars worked faultless all day. It caps a hell of a year and a great day really. It's a good step forward and we are perfectly positioned for next year."

Craig Gore -- Team Australia Co-Owner

"Today's clinching of the Rookie of the Year title by claiming a podium really caps off what has been a terrific season for Team Australia and everyone involved in the program," said Gore.

"There is no doubt that this is one of the proudest days I have experienced for a long, long time.

"We set goals at the beginning of the season and in many ways we have exceeded them.

"To win the Champ Car Atlantic Championship with Simon (Pagenaud), take a pole at our home Champ Car race and then collect the Rookie award with Will (Power) has been tremendously rewarding for myself, Derrick (Walker) and the team.

"For Will to get his first podium today is just awesome.

"I think we really have given everyone in Australia something to cheer about this year and our growing fan base internationally has been remarkable.

"I think people forget that this program has been together for less than two years.

"Our sponsors have enjoyed the success with us and we look forward to introducing several new corporate partners in the future.

"Our results, overall presentation and attitude have earned us respect within the Champ Car paddock and in motorsports as a whole internationally."

-credit: www.teamaustraliamotorsport.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power , Geoff Brabham , Dan Clarke