Junqueira and Bourdais Look Forward to Return to Site of Teams Most Success in This Weekend's Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 5, 2004) --- With 77 wins, 81 poles and 191 podium finishes since their first season...
Junqueira and Bourdais Look Forward to Return to Site of Teams Most Success in This Weekend's Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 5, 2004) --- With 77 wins, 81 poles and 191 podium finishes since their first season of competition in 1983, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) is the most successful team competing in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford but no track has been as good to the team over the years as the picturesque 4.048-mile Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wis. PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira and McDonald's diver Sebastien Bourdais return to this weekend's Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America in hopes of adding to the team's nine wins, six poles and 17 podium finishes as well as repeating their 1-2 finish here last year, respectively.
"Newman/Haas Racing won nine races at Road America and has a good history of success there," said Junqueira. "I hope I can continue that success for them. We tested there this year and right off the truck the PacifiCare car was good and I was the fastest and I hope that it will be fast again this weekend."
Of the team's current driver lineup, Junqueira has the most experience here. In three starts he has won two races (2001, 2003) and finished third in the other (2002). After seven races so far this season, Junqueira is ranked second in the point standings with 159 to Bourdais's 186 and is hoping to earn his first win of the season here as he did last season after four second place finishes so far in 2004. He hopes to continue his success at this track this season.
"Road America is my favorite track of the year," said Junqueira. "I love the track, I think it's a proper road race track. Every lap that I do there, I enjoy it the most of the whole season. For sure I have had a lot of success there and that is something I am proud of because it's a difficult track. I won there twice and finished third the other time and started twice from pole. I hope I can continue the success this year and put the PacifiCare car in winner's circle."
At the midway point in the 2004 championship, Junqueira knows that a repeat performance of his 2003 weekend here would help his championship aspirations. A good weekend could see him close the 27-point gap on Bourdais in the standings or take over the lead as he did following this event last year.
"Last year at Road America was a perfect weekend," said Junqueira. "I earned the maximum points as well as my first win of the season. I was on the pole Friday by a second and had a big (time) difference Saturday as well. Unfortunately it rained during the race and it was difficult for everybody but I still led every lap and won. It is great to win but it's especially great to win at Road America my favorite track."
Not only has the team earned 9 of their 77 wins at the 14-turn road course which is situated only a few hours from their Lincolnshire, Ill. base, their first victory came at this track when Mario Andretti drove to victory from pole. Since then Michael Andretti, Christian Fittipaldi, Cristiano da Matta and Junqueira have added to the team's victory total here. In their 21 previous races here the team has started on pole six times and earned an impressive total of 17 top-three podium finishes. McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais hopes to add his name to the list of drivers who have scored wins at this track and also enjoy all that Road America has to offer.
"I think Newman/Haas Racing historically has been very good in Elkhart Lake," said Bourdais, who finished second to Junqueira by 0.708 seconds in the rain-delayed race last year. "Last year we had a very good car and we tested again this year to prepare for the race. I think the McDonald's car is going to be plenty, plenty fast. I'm not concerned about the speed; I'm more concerned about the weather. It can be on and off. It's definitely the venue that the drivers are expecting the most from because it's probably the best track in the United States so we're going to have fun."
In 2003, Junqueira and Bourdais combined for a total of five wins, seven poles and 16 podium finishes in 18 events but the team was unable to earn back-to-back championship titles with the drivers finishing second and fourth respectively in the season-ending standings. Although Bourdais and Junqueira currently rank first and second in the championship standings, reigning champion Paul Tracy is closing on their totals of 186 and 159 respectively with 142 points. Both drivers are optimistic they will have well balanced race cars after a good test in conditions similar to those expected this weekend.
"You need to set up the car well for the inside section which is medium slow speed and you also have to have a very fast car through the fast section where the carousel, the kink and the bridge are," said Bourdais, who has earned four wins and three poles to date this season. "It's demanding. You need to find the right setup and it doesn't take much to mess it up so you have to be careful. We had a good test at Road America but your performance depends a lot on the track conditions which can easily change from the test to race weekend. Last year I was very happy during the test but struggled to find the balance in the car during race weekend. Definitely the rubber that's down on the track is a big influence on what the car does. This year we had warmer conditions on the track for the test which should be more like what we're going to have this weekend."
The majority of drivers who have experienced this track, regardless of the type of race car they were in, list Road America as one of their favorite tracks. Prior to becoming a successful race team owner Carl Haas also competed in and won races at this track that many call a "Drivers Track" due to the challenging combination of slow and fast speed corners as well as the precision necessary to succeed here.
"Road America is a very long track but it doesn't have much room to make a mistake," added Bourdais. "There are some runoff areas then there is the grass but the wall is right behind so you have to be careful not to make a mistake. It's definitely the race track that counts the most from the driver standpoint because it's fast, it's challenging, it has a bit of everything and I think it's a really neat race track."
Both Junqueira and Bourdais followed cyclist Lance Armstrong path to his sixth Tour de France title last month and will participate in the Tour de Road America, a Peloton Project fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) that will take place on the course. Bicyclists and world-class drivers will ride the historic four-mile race track starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 7, during the race weekend. Cyclists and drivers will raise funds for completing in support of the LAF, whose purpose is to enhance the quality of life for those living with, through and beyond cancer.
The entire Champ Car field is looking forward to returning to Road America this weekend and will attempt to put a wrench in Newman/Haas Racing's performance average. Junqueira, however, will not allow anything to take away from his fondness of the track. "I love the place, I enjoy everything about it."
The Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America will take place on Sunday, August 8 at 3:00 p.m. ET and will be televised live on HdNet and shown on a tape delayed basis at 4 p.m. ET on Spike TV. All times eastern.