CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Newman/Haas Racing preview

NHR Aims to Win Third of Four GP of Monterrey's Champ Car races MONTERREY, Mexico (May 19, 2004) --- The Champ Car World Series will make its return to the 2.104-mile road course around Fundidora Park for the fourth annual Tecate/Telmex...

NHR Aims to Win Third of Four GP of Monterrey's Champ Car races

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 19, 2004) --- The Champ Car World Series will make its return to the 2.104-mile road course around Fundidora Park for the fourth annual Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix on Sunday, May 23 and Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) drivers Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais will aim to bring the team their third victory here. Former NHR driver Cristiano da Matta won the inaugural event here in 2001 and kicked off his championship-winning season with his first of seven victories here in 2002. In addition former team driver Christian Fittipaldi earned a third-place podium finish in 2002.

McDonald's driver Bourdais will attempt to improve his chance of victory by earning his first back-to-back pole in his second season in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford series this weekend in Mexico. Last year, Bourdais not only became the first rookie since Nigel Mansell to earn the pole position in his first two starts in the series, he also set a new track record. He led the first 16 laps of the race but a faulty radio led to a missed pit stop and caused him to fall back in the field. Spectacular passing maneuvers enabled him to move from 15th place to sixth but a troubled second pit stop and a brush with the wall entering the pits for his third and final stop ultimately led to his retirement from the race in 17th place. With a strong baseline setup from last year, Bourdais is confident of again being a contender for victory this year.

"Last year the weekend didn't start very well," said Bourdais. "We were not very fast, not comfortable in the car and we still won the pole after being 5/10ths of a second faster than everybody else and blew the track record so from that point we looked very good. And then the race started and we were P1, Tracy was two seconds behind and the rest of the field was far away. And we just lost the radio transmission without knowing we lost it. Then when the yellow came out I didn't get the message from the team to pit out race was completely screwed up. We had to pit after everyone else and get out of sequence. Afterwards I just tried to get back to the front. I was around 15th place after I made my first stop and in 13 laps I moved up to seventh place after pushing myself hard. Another yellow came out near our last stop and I brushed the pit entry and bent the toe link and that was it for the race. I think we have a very good baseline to start with so I'm pretty confident. I'm looking forward to returning. Hopefully the radio won't shut down this year."

Although there has been over a one-month break since the season opener in Long Beach where he started on pole and finished second, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira has been busy. Since the Long Beach race, we joined Bourdais for tests on the road course in Portland and the one-mile oval in Milwaukee as well as completed 1100 miles of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the 2004 Indy 500 on May 30. Foremost in his mind this week however, is the Monterrey, Mexico event and his chance to return the team to winner's circle here.

"This year I'm going to try to win the third race for Newman/Haas in Monterrey of the four times the series has run there," said Junqueira, who started seventh but had to settle for a fifth place finish after he spun while third here in 2003. "Last year I had the fastest race lap and the car was good unfortunately I didn't start in a great spot for the race and I had to come back through the field but this year I'm going to try to qualify better and have a shot to win."

Heading into Round 2 of the season, Junqueira and Bourdais are ranked second and third respectively in the Champ Car World Series point standings. Paul Tracy holds the lead with 32 points over Junqueira, 29 and Bourdais, 27.

In an effort to maximize the action and drama for the Mexican race fans, Champ Car Operations will introduce a new qualifying format for the Monterrey event. The new format splits Friday qualifiers randomly into two groups, with each group running for 15 minutes. The top five in both sessions then battle for the day's best time and a championship point. All cars go out at once for a 30-minute session on Saturday, with the top 10 times (or top nine plus Friday's leader) running seven laps in an effort to win the pole.

In the three-year history of the event, 769,771 fans have attended. The 2003 three-day attendance total of 215,771, including a race day crowd of 92,713 will most likely be surpassed this year. At that rate, the event will draw its one-millionth fan at some point during the May 21-23 event weekend. Mexican drivers Michel Jourdain, Mario Dominguez, Rodolfo Lavin, and Roberto Gonzalez are sure to receive the lion's share of support from the local fans at one of the best events of the season.

"The fans are really rooting for the Mexicans for sure but its great to race in front of so many people," said Bourdais. We have very good venues and have nice crowds but the two Mexican events are really special. Sometimes it's even a bit scary when there are 300,000 people on race day. All of the grandstands, and there are many of them, are completely full. The whole thing is a big success. The races in Mexico are great!"

"For sure the race in Monterrey is one of the biggest races of the year," added Junqueira. "All of the race fans they have there on race day make it very exciting. The event brings so many fans -- it's incredible. I think it looks like a soccer game on race day. The people are getting really excited. This year Adrian's not going to be in Monterrey but the current Mexican drivers and teams are stronger than ever and they have a good chance to do well there. They love Michel, Mario and Rodolfo and the place will go crazy if a Mexican driver wins. They supported Cristiano (da Matta) when he won in 2001 and 2002 so I hope they will support me if I win this year!"

The 72-lap Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, May 23 and will be televised on SpikeTV at 4 p.m. ET as well as 4 p.m. PT and will also be broadcast live on HDNet at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, is the most successful team competing in the Champ Car World Series. The team will begin their 22nd season in Champ Car competition in 2004 and will attempt to score their fifth overall title after winning 73 races and 78 pole positions. Current drivers Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais were preceded at the team by Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.brunojunqueira.com, www.sebastien-bourdais.com or www.champcarworldseries.com.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Roberto Gonzalez , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain