Indianapolis, Indiana, December 3, 2001 After making it to the podium in seven of their last 12 races of the 2001 CART season, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani of Team Player's served notice that they are strong contenders for the drivers' title next year. For both drivers, the pursuit of that championship begins this week when they take to the track for their first off-season testing session.
Tagliani will be the first to run test laps when he puts the 2001 car through its paces on the Sebring, Florida road course on Wednesday and Thursday. Team Player's is awaiting delivery of the first Reynard 2002 chassis at its Indianapolis racing facilities on December 10, and the team's mechanics will then assemble the car, a task they expect to finish in time for Carpentier's testing session on the same circuit, December 18-19.
"With 10 testing days per driver (the maximum allowed under CART series regulations) and 15 days of wind-tunnel development over a span of less than three months, it's an intensive schedule that demands a sustained effort by everyone on Team Player's," remarked Bruce Ashmore, Team Player's Technical Director. "But because of the progress we made in 2001, you can sense that there is a keen interest in making sure everything is in order so that we can continue our push to the championship."
For the third straight year, Team Player's will have the same engine-chassis combination, with a Reynard car powered by a Ford-Cosworth engine. Ford finished in a tie with Honda in 2001 for the most wins (7) by an engine manufacturer, while Reynard edged out Lola in the constructors championship (378 points to 335).
"Looking back, I feel the most positive thing about our season was that we were competitive on every type of circuit, and it's very rare in the CART series that a team can be that consistent," explained Tagliani, who was on the podium three times in his second CART season. "Because of this consistency, we'll be able to concentrate on the little things in off-season testing, rather than having to work on simply finding the proper setups."
This factor was taken into account in selecting the tracks on the off-season testing schedule only one oval course is on the Team Player's list, and that is the Homestead oval.
"We opted to put an emphasis on the road courses because you have to consider there are more variables from an aerodynamic standpoint, whereas next year the ovals (apart from Fontana) are limited to only one wing configuration," explained Ashmore. "We have also maintained our system of alternating the drivers for testing sessions because that allows us to better manage the engineers' workload and to gather as much information as we can with track conditions spaced out over 20 days rather than 10."
The final off-season testing session, however, will be a departure from this system, since Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani will compete against each other in a simulated race that will include pit stops.
"We want to test the equipment package and the reliability of the cars so that we can avoid getting off to a slow start, like we did in the 2001 season," said Carpentier, who ended the season in 10th place in the drivers' standings with 91 points. "While we have no control over unforeseen developments, I'm confident that we'll be able to pick up where we left off at the end of the 2001 season, when we were performing as well as any team in the series."
Carpentier, who underwent laser surgery last week to correct a vision problem, will be taking a few days off before resuming the training program set up by athletic trainer Anthony Young, who also works with Tagliani on the mental and physical aspects of getting ready for the next racing season.
"I spoke with several people about laser surgery, including Alex (Tagliani), who had a lot of good things to say about it, and I finally decided to go ahead with the corrective surgery because quite often my glasses start to fog up while I'm racing, especially when it's raining," explained Carpentier. "Bruce Ashmore also gave me some reassurance by telling me that back when he was working with Bobby Rahal, Bobby had the best season of his career after he had the laser surgery."
For your information, Team Player's provisional off-season testing schedule is as follows:
December 5-6 at Sebring (road course) Tagliani
December 18-19 at Sebring (road course) Carpentier
January 9-10 at Sebring (road course) Tagliani
January 22-23 at Sebring (road course) Carpentier
January 30-31 at Homestead (road course) Tagliani
February 13-15 Laguna Seca (road course) Tagliani (13 & 15), Carpentier (14 & 15)
February 18-19 at Homestead (oval) Carpentier
February 25-26 at Homestead (road course) Tagliani and Carpentier