JACKSON, MI - - DECEMBER 9, 2002 - - Visteon/Patrick Racing confirmed today that Steve Challis will assume the responsibilities of Chief Engineer and that the team will campaign Lola cars in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
"Steve Challis is someone who has a lot of experience in the CART Series," Visteon/Patrick Racing General Manger Jim McGee said. "He has a tremendous background and a lot of experience with the Lolas, which is a big plus for our team. Steve is a very practical engineer and someone, we feel, can put a competitive racecar on the track," McGee noted.
Challis began his career as the owner/operator of an automotive shop specializing in racing and high-performance vehicle modification in Vancouver, Canada. He was an automotive consultant to the Player's Challenge Series, IMSA GTO and Trans-AM from 1987-1991. In 1991, Challis also became the Race Engineer for Greg Moore Racing in Formula Ford. He moved with Moore to the USA F-2000 West Series in 1992 and continued to be the Race Engineer for Greg Moore Racing in Indy Lights during the 1993 and 1994 seasons. In 1995, Challis, as Chief Race Engineer, and Moore joined the Player's/Forsythe Racing Indy Lights program. Challis remained in the same position when both he and Moore stepped up to Champ Cars for the 1996 through 1999 seasons. Challis moved to Team Kool Green and was the Chief Race engineer for Dario Franchitti in 2000 and Paul Tracy in 2001 and 2002.
"I am very happy to be joining the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team," Challis said. "Mr. Patrick has a long and successful history competing in this series and I am looking forward to working with Jim McGee, Oriol Servia and the entire Visteon/Patrick Racing organization."
Regarding the switch from the Reynard chassis that Visteon/Patrick Racing has run for several years to the Lola, McGee said, "One of the main reasons for the switch to the Lola is that we weren't sure there would be any development with the Reynard, or that parts would be available. We would have changed to the Lola during the 2002 season, but we hung in there with the Reynards hoping that someone would come along, take over the reins and do more development or at least make more parts available. When that didn't happen we made the decision that we would switch to the Lola for this year."
McGee contined saying, "Oriol did a good job this year, but the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team just didn't qualify very well with the Reynard. Our biggest problem was not qualifying at the top of the grid. In the race we always seemed to get the chassis up to speed, but we just failed to qualify up front. We had no test days with Oriol last year because he signed on at mid-season and had to immediately go racing. It will be good to have the winter to test. We have some new elements to our team and this will give us an opportunity to work together and prepare to challenge for the championship next year."
Servia, who recently signed to drive for Visteon/Patrick Racing in 2003 said, "I am very excited to be driving the car that won the championship last year. I drove Lolas the first three races of last year and then ran the Reynard. I think the Reynard can be a very good car, but the Lola just makes the driver's job easier. It is quicker right off the trailer and more forgiving in terms of the setup. It is a more consistent chassis and will put us on an equal footing with the other teams during the upcoming season."
The 2003 season will be Patrick Racing's its 31st year of open wheel competition and the sixth of its alliance with Visteon Corporation. Patrick Racing is one of the most successful teams in the history of USAC Championship Car (Indy Car)/CART racing. Patrick drivers have started 769 races, earning 45 victories including three Indianapolis 500 titles and two national championships.
Considered one of the premier teams, Patrick Racing is owned and led by one of the most respected names in CART, U. E. "Pat" Patrick. Patrick became involved in racing in the sixties as a sponsor. By 1970 he had founded his own team and in 1978 became the co-founder of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). General Manager Jim McGee oversees the team's operation from its Indianapolis, Indiana base. McGee, who is entering his 44th year of USAC Championship Car (Indy Car)/CART competition, has amassed the most victories by a manager/chief mechanic with 89. His record includes four Indianapolis 500 titles and nine national championships.