TAGLIANI PICKS UP THE PACE WITH ROCKETSPORTS IN FINAL PRE-SEASON TEST
MONTEREY, California (March 10, 2007) -- After officially announcing Alex Tagliani as the team's driver, Rocketsports Racing participated in their third pre-season test March 9-10 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterrey, California and had a successful run as they make their final preparations for the start of the Champ Car season in April.
Running one car, the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone, Rocketsports Racing joined efforts during this test with fourth-year Champ Car team RuSPORT. RuSPORT's 2007 Champ Car entry of the #9 CDW Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone piloted by Justin Wilson, along with Rocketsports, saw the possible benefits of running and working together during this test as an attempt to be technical partners for this season.
"It has been a great two days for us," an excited Tagliani proclaimed. "We have been so fast, and due to a combination of two things: my new engineer Chris Lerch, and our joined-efforts with RuSPORT. I am just so excited to be working with Chris, we really have a good connection. Also, I have a good relationship with Justin (Wilson) off-track, and to work with him in a more professional matter in a team setting, as been a great opportunity. He is a world-class driver and it is an honor to have this chance to work with him as a teammate. So those two efforts really benefited me as a driver, and Rocketsports as a team."
After accomplishing a full-day of media activities on Thursday, Tagliani jumped into the #8 car on Friday and immediately saw positive results. In the morning session, the Montreal-native was sixth quickest posting a time of 1:07.623 (119.143 mph) after completing 43 laps around the 2.238-mile permanent road course of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit. The afternoon session saw him add-on 20 more timed laps, recording a best time of 1:07.799 (118.834 mph), in which he finished the day in the ninth spot.
With the debut of the Panoz Champ Car on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track, lap times impressed many. Champ Car's lap-record at this track was set back in 2000, when Helio Castroneves recorded a lap time of 1:07.722 in a Reynard. Tagliani beat that time on Friday morning, showing that incredible speed that these new cars have. As the times of these new Panoz cars continued to increase, Champ Car put out a $5,000 bounty to the first driver/team that could best the track-record time of 1:06.309 set by Toyota's Formula 1 car in 2006.
On another bright and sunny day, with warmer temperatures and a flock of spectators on-site, Tagliani and the team ventured out for some more track time on Saturday. After making 48 orbits, Tagliani saw himself in the top five at the end of the morning session after recording a 1:06.804 (120.604 mph). Running most of the afternoon in the top three, Tagliani finished the afternoon in the seventh spot posting a time of 1:06.760 (120.683 mph).
Tagliani and the Rocketsports crew came close to setting a new track record, but it three-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais who would claim the prize and leave a Champ Car mark at the series' former-venue after posting a 1:05.880 (122.295 mph).
"Overall, this was a great test for us," continued Tagliani. "We did not have as many clean laps as we hoped to on the second day, and we were not using the Power-to-Pass at the right times, so I feel that we could have been faster in the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone. I think that the crew is really pumped up with our results and we are ready to go racing. I think that Paul (Gentilozzi) and Dan (Pettit) are very excited with the overall results of working together, Rocketsports and RuSPORT. I am very excited for what is to come!"
Completing over 302 miles, Tagliani finished the test as the eighth quickest driver after posting his best time during the two-day run of 1:06.760 (120.683 mph).
"We are very pleased with our results this test," said Rocketsports team owner Paul Gentilozzi. "Obviously we are trying out a co-op relationship with RuSPORT and we feel that it has been quite beneficial. Being able to work together has show value to both drivers and the teams. Everyone is working really well together, so it has been a positive experience. We are heading in a positive direction and we are really looking forward to starting the season in April."