ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE -- BUT AN ABRUPT END
LAGUNA SECA, CALIFORNIA, March 10, 2007 -- Minardi Team USA and driver, Robert Doornbos, took up today where they left off yesterday at the Champ Car World Series Spring Training event at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. The Dutch driver was again among the first on track at the start of the morning session, and rapidly up to speed. Running quickly and consistently, he amassed 53 laps, recording a best lap of 1 min 06.959 secs, just half a second off the time of pace-setter, and reigning Series champion, Sebastien Bourdais. The pattern continued in the afternoon, with Doornbos fourth fastest at one stage, but then on lap 21, his car left the track and hit the barriers at Turn 6. Fortunately, the driver emerged unscathed, but with only a relatively short time remaining until the end of the session, it was not possible to recover the car and effect repairs. Before the incident, Doornbos had been working through a chassis set-up program on the Panoz DP01, carrying out several longer runs aimed at assessing the car's behaviour on cold tires and with differing fuel loads. Despite the premature end to the day, Minardi Team USA personnel remain pleased with the progress made during the two-day Spring Training session, and remain on course in terms of their pre-season preparations.
Robert Doornbos Fastest lap: 1 min 06.959 secs/120.324mph Total laps: 134
"I guess you could say we finished the day with a bang! Despite that, though, it has definitely been a positive two days. Right from the beginning of the test, we were on the pace, and we started strongly again this morning, eventually getting into the 1 minute 6 second bracket, which only six other drivers managed. We worked on the set-up, to try and find a good direction, and the guys made some additional changes during the break. After lunch, we were doing some cold-tire running, in order to get an understanding of how the car would feel after a pit stop, and on about the fifth lap of the run, I had a 'moment' and ended up in the barriers. It's unfortunate, and I'm sorry for causing extra work for the mechanics, who now have to repair the car, but it doesn't affect my motivation in any way. Between the first test, at Sebring, and Spring Training here at Laguna Seca, we've been able to reduce the gap to the leaders from 1.5 seconds to 0.4 seconds, which is a good result. I feel very positive about the team, who have worked hard to improve the car, and I hope I've also contributed to making it go faster. There is still some work to do, but I think we should be happy with what we have achieved so far."
Keith Wiggins, Co-owner, Minardi Team USA
"The verdict on today remains much the same as it did yesterday, in that despite car and driver suffering an off-course excursion, we are continuing to go in the right direction. The team is working well, we are making satisfactory technical progress, and Robert has been running in the top five during this test, and is on the pace, so I'm reasonably content. It would have been beneficial, of course, if he could have completed the afternoon session, as he lost the opportunity to post a good time near the end, and also to take part in some Champ Car-style pit stop practice. That said, although it's always nice to come away from a test with a good lap time and without any crashes, inevitably in racing there will be accidents, and they don't deter us from our goal of making progress. Now it's onwards and upwards to Las Vegas."