CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Rocketsports Racing Saturday report

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- Rocketsports Champ Car drivers, Alex Tagliani and Guy Smith will face the challenge of moving up the grid tomorrow in the Grand Prix of Road America Presented by the Chicago Tribune. Tagliani and Smith ...

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 7, 2004) -- Rocketsports Champ Car drivers, Alex Tagliani and Guy Smith will face the challenge of moving up the grid tomorrow in the Grand Prix of Road America Presented by the Chicago Tribune. Tagliani and Smith qualified 13th and 16th respectively and will look to secure strong finishing positions in the 52 lap race at Road America.

Alex Tagliani in the No.8 Johnson Controls Lola qualified 13th, posting a time of 1:45.172 (138.562 mph, 222.993 km/h) in his only qualifying attempt of the weekend. Tagliani skipped the first qualifying session as the Rocketsports crew worked through the day to repair damage suffered during Friday morning Practice. Despite the setback in Friday's qualifying and difficulties with the No.8 Lola today, Tagliani is drawing on the determination of Rocketsports to pull through for a strong finish as he did last year, in what is becoming a deja vu of the 2003 Road America race.

"The No.8 Johnson Controls car was great," said Tagliani. "The Practice session this morning showed it was fast, with top-three potential. In Qualifying I had trouble with the gear-shift lever in the car and couldn't downshift while braking. Mechanically, it was physically difficult to shift gears and I found myself stuck in seventh gear a few times -- even the data shows an abrupt downshift pattern. It got stiffer throughout the session, so we know there's something binding and need to look at the gearbox.

"We'll fix the gears tonight and I'll have to work harder in the race tomorrow. We worked our way up from the back of the grid to the podium here last year and in Cleveland this year, so I'm confident Rocketsports can do a good job tomorrow," concluded Tagliani.

Last season, the Rocketsports crew quickly repaired Tagliani's car that was damaged in the Friday morning practice session. Tagliani went on to qualify 13th and if the pattern continues, Tagliani will flex some Rocketsports muscle and finish on the podium, as he has for the past two years.

Rocketsports teammate, Guy Smith in the No.17 Rocketsports Lola will sit in 16th position on the starting grid for his debut Champ Car race. Smith qualified 15th in the second Champ Car qualifying session and posted a time of 146.025 (137.447 mph, 221.199 km/h). In the first qualifying session Smith was 16th with a time of 1:47.948 (134.998 mph, 217.258 km/h).

The 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours winner noted the differences between sportscars and Champ Cars as he prepared for his first Champ Car World Series career start. "I'm still making adjustments and getting used to the Champ Car," said Smith. "The Cosworth-powered Lolas are a lot more physically demanding than sportscars and I feel the strain, especially in the Kink and Carousel.

"I'm learning and improving my time in each session," added Smith. "I really want to push it out there on the track and I don't wan to be last, but don't want to overdo it either. My plan for the race is to stay out of trouble, finish reasonably well and learn all that I can from the experience. I need to build a good base going into Denver and the remainder of the season.

Catch Tagliani and Smith in the Grand Prix of Road America Presented by the Chicago Tribune on Spike TV at 4:00 PM (ET).

-rsr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Guy Smith , Alex Tagliani
Teams HART