CHAMPCAR/CART: Minardi Team USA Laguna Seca test 2007-03-09

Pacy Doornbos Quickly Up To Speed In California LAGUNA SECA, CALIFORNIA, March 9, 2007 -- Robert Doornbos is clearly getting to grips with Champ Car. On only his third pre-season appearance for Minardi Team USA, the 25-year-old Dutch driver ...

Pacy Doornbos Quickly Up To Speed In California

LAGUNA SECA, CALIFORNIA, March 9, 2007 -- Robert Doornbos is clearly getting to grips with Champ Car. On only his third pre-season appearance for Minardi Team USA, the 25-year-old Dutch driver recorded the fifth fastest time during the opening day of Spring Training at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, the final test for Champ Car World Series teams before the start of the 2007 season. The Indianapolis-based squad was among the first on track, Doornbos and newly appointed test and reserve driver, Zsolt Baumgartner, both keen to familiarize themselves with the demanding 2.238-mile (3.602-km) road course and get under way with the day's technical program. Under the guidance of the team's engineering staff, the plan was for Doornbos and Baumgartner to work on continuing development of the Panoz DP01 chassis, focusing specifically on the evaluation of suspension geometry changes, as well as assessment of shock absorber settings and brake pad material.

With track conditions improving steadily during the morning, both drivers set encouraging lap times as the session progressed. Unfortunately, the afternoon was not as kind to Baumgartner, whose car ran off the track at Turn 6 not long after the start of the second session, and made contact with the barriers. The young Hungarian driver was uninjured in the incident, but damage to the chassis was such that it could not be repaired in the time available.

Testing continues tomorrow, as teams prepare for the opening race of the new season, in Las Vegas, in just four weeks.

Robert Doornbos - Fastest lap: 1 min 07.237 secs/119.827mph

"It's been a great day. This is an amazing circuit, as we found when we walked around it on Thursday, but to drive on it is absolutely fantastic. We made good progress this morning, and having set a time that put us in P1 for awhile, stopped before the end of the session in order to make further changes to the car. We had a pretty clear idea about set-up from early on, and we've been able to improve the car consistently, thanks to the hard work of all the guys. I think we can be pleased with our top-five time today, as it's an indication we're becoming competitive. There's more work to do tomorrow, with some race simulation and heavy-fuel runs, as well as standing start practice at the end of the day, but we're definitely going in the right direction."

Zsolt Baumgartner - Fastest lap: 1 min 10.415 secs/114.419mph

"As you can imagine, I'm a bit upset with myself. I had been getting on well with the car during the morning, and was enjoying driving it, but then I made a mistake on my first run of the afternoon. The car understeered at Turn 6, which is a fast corner, I lost the line, got on the dirt, and hit the wall with the left side. Unfortunately, there is a bit too much damage to allow the team to get the car running again tomorrow, which means I won't be able to make as much of this opportunity to test a Champ Car as I had hoped. As for Laguna Seca, I really like it. It has some fast corners and a good 'rhythm' to it, and is the sort of track I find very enjoyable to race on."

Keith Wiggins, Co-owner, Minardi Team USA

"I think we can be relatively content with the day. The combination of Robert's increasing experience, and the team gaining a better understanding of the way the new car works, meant it felt as though we were really able to start making some solid progress today. Robert's best time this afternoon, set without the benefit of any push-to-pass, was less than 0.5 seconds off the fastest of the day, so we are definitely in the ballpark. On the other hand, I feel sorry for Zsolt that his first Champ Car test had to end like this. The car, the team and the track were all new to him, and up to the time he had his 'off', he was doing just fine. Unfortunately, the spares are not available to get the car on track again during this test, so repairs will have to wait until we get back to the factory. On balance, though, I'm feeling confident with the team, and particularly the engineering group, and I'm sure Robert will continue to do a strong job for us. Now we just need to sort out the remaining pieces of the jigsaw puzzle."

-credit: mtusa

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Series INDYCAR