HOMESTEAD (December 8, 1999) -- There was no popping of champagne corks, or any Y2K glitches, just the roar of 800-horsepower engines to celebrate the beginning of the new year at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Gil de Ferran and rookie Alexandre Tagliani took to the 2.21-mile road course Wednesday, as testing began for the March 24-26 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota, the opening race of the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series.
"This is only my third day of testing with the team," said Tagliani, a Toyota Atlantic graduate who is coming from a test at the road circuit at Sebring. "My times are coming down, and we're ahead of schedule."
Tagliani, a 27-year-old Canadian, won six races over his four-year Toyota Atlantic career. He spent the past three seasons with Player's/Forsythe Racing, winning at Long Beach and Montreal en route to finishing fourth in the 1999 point standings.
"I'm going along very good with the team," Tagliani said. "The Players Forsythe team in the past has brought along several rookies, and they are very good with me. I'm learning a lot with them, and I think they have the proper way to bring me along on my rookie season."
One of the rookies Player's/Forsythe brought along was the late Greg Moore, the defending champion of the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota. Moore set the Speedway qualifying record with a lap of 217.541 mph in 1998.
"This is a big step up from Indy Lights," Taglini added. "The cars are faster, and you need to put more effort into the car, and for a longer period of time. In addition to testing with the race car, I'm also spending a lot of time training physically.
"I haven't tested on an oval yet (in a Champ Car). My first test will be here next month, so it will be very interesting to see how I can get used to the car on an oval track. The team is telling me I will get used to the oval pretty easily, so I'm very excited and looking forward to the test. I hope we will be fast! It's harder to run on a road course, so it's better for me to get used to the car and get used to working with all the guys on the team on a road course first."
De Ferran and the Penske team engineers spent the day sorting out 2KI glitches with their brand-new Reynard. De Ferran will be joined in testing Thursday by Helio Castro-Neves. In addition to changing both drivers, the team switched from Penske and Lola chassis to Reynards for 2000, along with switching from Mercedes to Honda powerplants. "We've changed everything but the numbers," quipped a Penske spokesman.
Ticket orders are now being accepted for the 2000 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota, by calling (305) 230-RACE. For additional information, visit the Speedway's official web site, www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.