MONTEREY, California (January 25, 2003) - Rookie driver Sebastien Bourdais proved that he has a flair for the dramatic in the first day of Champ Car open testing Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Despite experiencing mechanical problems during most of the day while testing for the 2002 Champ Car World Series champion Newman/Haas Racing team, Bourdais put together a blistering run on his final lap of the day to post the unofficial fastest time of 70.154 seconds (114.845 mph).
The 23-year-old Bourdais, the reigning FIA International F3000 Champion who has not yet been signed to compete for Newman/Haas Racing in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, recorded the top time among the 12 drivers from nine Champ Car teams testing over the two-day period at Laguna Seca.
"You certainly don't expect to come out here as a rookie and be quick, but we ran well while testing at Sebring (last week) and it is only a test," said Bourdais. "This is why I came to the U.S. to race in Champ Cars. You want the opportunity to succeed and drive for the best team."
A crowd of 1,600 fans turned out to witness testing on a sunny day at the picturesque 2.238-mile Northern California road circuit, which will host the Grand Prix of Monterey Champ Car event June 13-15 this summer.
The crowd enjoyed a familiar site at Laguna Seca - a dominant performance by the two Newman/Haas Champ Cars. While Bourdais owned the top time, he had to edge out teammate Bruno Junqueira who had the second-fastest lap of 70.195 seconds (114.777 mph) and sat atop the scoring charts for most of the afternoon before Bourdais' late run. The Newman/Haas machines paced Spring Training testing last year at Laguna Seca and 2002 Champ Car World Series champion Cristiano da Matta led a 1-2 Newman/Haas sweep last June at the facility's Champ Car event.
Patrick Carpentier of Player's/Forsythe Racing owned the top lap in the morning session of 71.098 seconds (113.320 mph), which was good enough for the third-fastest overall time of the day. Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. came on late in the afternoon session to own the fourth-fastest lap of 71.169 seconds (113.207 mph) while Visteon Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia rounded out the top five on the day with a lap of 71.378 seconds (112.875 mph).
Champ Car veteran Roberto Moreno continued testing for the Herdez Competition team and he recorded the sixth-fastest time of 71.400 seconds (112.840 mph) while Carpentier's new teammate at Player's/Forsythe Racing - Paul Tracy - recorded a top lap of 71.437 seconds (112.782 mph).
Mario Dominguez returned to action for Herdez Competition after off-season shoulder surgery and he was eighth overall on the day with a lap of 71.684 seconds (112.393 mph) while fellow Mexican Adrian Fernandez of Fernandez Racing owned a time of 71.725 seconds (112.329 mph).
Canadian Alex Tagliani posted a time of 72.416 seconds (111.257 mph) while driving for Rocketsports Racing and two Champ Car rookies completed the field with Dale Coyne Racing's Joel Camathias carding a time of 72.537 seconds (111.072 mph) and Mario Haberfeld of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing owning a best lap of 74.217 seconds (108.557 mph).
The Champ Cars return to the track on Sunday for another full day of testing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the 2003 season kicks into high gear next week with the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Spring Training activities in both St. Petersburg and Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Feb. 2-6.