THE MORE THE MERRIER; ROCKETSPORTS RACING BACK TO TWO CARS IN PORTLAND
EAST LANSING, Michigan (June 14, 2006) - Tonis Kasemets will join Rocketsports Racing and its driver Nicky Pastorelli in Portland to make his Champ Car debut, as the team expands to a two-car effort in at least six races this season in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series.
The first year that Rocketsports Racing participated in the Champ Car World Series was in 2003. That year, the team ventured out onto the 1.969-mile permanent road course at Portland International Speedway with veteran driver Alex Tagliani for the first time, which resulted in a podium finish. The team knows what it takes to be running up front, and despite Rocketsports' having two rookies behind the wheel, PIR is a track that both Kasemets and Pastorelli are familiar with.
Kasemets earned three wins and three poles to finish as the runner-up in the 2005 Atlantic Championship. Kasemets was unstoppable in Portland last year as two of those wins and one of those poles happened at the PIR track for the Estonian-American driver during a double-header Atlantic race weekend. He led all 35 laps in the second race of the weekend and posted the fastest time while taking the win from the pole. The 32-year-old driver was recognized for all his hard work and dedication as not only a driver, but a team member, with the Ohlins Shock Technician of the Year award, which only leads to the expectations that he will bring those skills with him as he joins Rocketsports this weekend and beyond.
"I am really looking forward to my first Champ Car race and working with Rocketsports Racing this weekend," said Kasemets as he prepares for the Portland event and becomes the first driver from Estonia t o compete in Champ Car. "I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I would like to thank Rocketsports and my sponsor Flexovit Abrasives for their support and believing in me. My goal this weekend is to finish the race, if we can do that in the #18 Flexovit Abrasives/Rocketsports car, then it will be a great accomplishment. This takes time, baby steps is the proper way to go about it with reasonable expectations. I know that we can work well together and help each other out, and it will show. Track knowledge helps extremely for a driver. I have raced and won on this track in an Atlantic car, despite the differences between the two cars, it gives me something to work with. The rookie test for me with Rocketsports on Thursday will give us an idea of how our weekend is going to go. So we will go out there and give it our best, and I will try to have some fun while trying to get the job accomplished!"
Pastorelli had his first run with the team during a two-day test in Portland back in April. A former F1 test driver for Jordan in 2005, the Italio-Dutch driver knows the demands of a road course. Unlike any other upcoming venue he will compete at this season, Pastorelli is familiar with this 10-turn road course terrain as he logged 185 laps during the test.
"I am looking forward to going to Portland," said Pastorelli on making his fourth Champ Car start. "I tested with the team for the first time there, so I have experience on this track. Unlike all of the other venues that I will be racing on this season, I have an advantage here because of my testing time with the team in April. Instead of having to go out and learn the track, I can just get started immediately on working on finding a good set-up for the #8 Bavaria City Racing/Rocketsports car. It is a really nice track to drive. I really don't know what to expect, but I am sure it will be fun. The Rocketsports team has been doing a great job for me, I hope we can get another top-ten finish this weekend and work on improving our qualifying position and overall result this weekend."
The #18 Rocketsports crew heads out to Portland today and will run Kasemets in a one-day test on Thursday on the PIR track. The rest of the team will arrive on Thursday to prepare for the race weekend. Final qualifying will take place at 1:45 p.m. local time on Saturday. The race is scheduled to take the green flag at 12:30 p.m. local time on Sunday and can be seen LIVE on CBS with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST. For live racing coverage all weekend sign up for Race Director at www.champcar.ws.