CHAMPCAR/CART: San Jose: Newman/Haas Racing preview

TRACK CHANGES HAVE McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS EXPECTING ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING RACES THIS SEASON IN SAN JOSE; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA MAKES DEBUT HERE SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 26, 2006) --- Last year in the inaugural race in San...

TRACK CHANGES HAVE McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS EXPECTING ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING RACES THIS SEASON IN SAN JOSE; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA MAKES DEBUT HERE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 26, 2006) --- Last year in the inaugural race in San Jose, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) battled not only a field of competition, they also battled a race track that provided challenges of its own. NHR and the Champ Car World Series will return to the streets of San Jose on a track that has been reworked to better suit the high-powered, low profile racing machines and McDonald's0x00ae driver Sebastien Bourdais expects the 97-lap Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow street race to be one of the most exciting events of the season.

"I think they made some good progress with the track and I'm sure it will be another great event this year," said Bourdais, who holds a 23 point lead over second place Justin Wilson (221-198) and 28 over A.J. Allmendinger (221-193) in the standings after eight of 14 events. "There were a lot of people at the race and, obviously the bigger issue was with the track but they've made some changes and I think it will probably be one of the most exciting races of the season. They put asphalt before and after the railroad tracks so that the rails don't stick up so much so we don't have a ramp. The change will help with the reliability issue we had with the cars last year because they were getting beat up going over the railroad tracks. The promoter also added a runoff for the first turn which is going to allow for a fast straight leading to a tight hairpin which is going to be quite something to see to be honest. We'll see what happens in that corner but I think the start of the race is going to be the toughest one of the season for sure and, maybe, ever."

After a successful debut in 2005 the promoters decided to rework the track for 2006, including widening areas and resurfacing Almaden Blvd, so that the curb is flush to the railroad crossing. The new configuration also features a better entrance to pit lane as well as a wider and faster approach to the front stretch. The 1.448-mile street course that winds around the San Jose Convention Center has also been smoothed out in many places, allowing the drivers to better plan their moves toward the front. In all, the changes will make the San Jose Grand Prix track wider, smoother and safer with the potential for more speed and passing.

At the inaugural event in 2005 Bourdais had a dream weekend after being fastest in both qualifying sessions, setting the fastest race lap and driving to victory but he acknowledged that the he could not have accomplished the feat without the extra work NHR put in to ensure their race cars finished the event. At the end of each day the team meticulously searched their cars for damaged or compromised parts from the unusual wear and tear of the race course and the night before the event the team stayed until 11 p.m. to totally rebuild their race cars as an extra precaution.

"The McDonald's team had a very successful weekend at the first race in San Jose," said Bourdais who spent the last few days sightseeing in San Francisco after finishing second in Edmonton. "We were P1 at the end of the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so you couldn't ask for a better weekend since we earned the maximum points possible. The McDonald's crew changed pretty much everything on the car last year the night before the race; they rebuilt the car from end to end. I give this organization a lot of credit for the result last year because it was a huge amount of work but we had two cars that made it to the finish and that was an achievement by itself."

Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira will make his debut on the streets of San Jose this weekend. It will be the second of two new courses this season for the Brazilian after having tackled the Edmonton airport course with some success last weekend. His highlight of the Edmonton weekend came when he set the third fastest time in provisional qualifying despite limited track time. A brush with the wall in final qualifying led to a ninth place start and he ultimately retired from the race after gearbox failure. Although he did not compete here last year he was a spectator and is looking forward to another great event in the third largest city in California.

"Last year I went to watch the San Jose race," said Junqueira, who is ranked ninth in the standings, only 22 points behind fourth place Paul Tracy who has 130 to Junqueira's 108. "I was in rehabilitation and couldn't race but I was there and watched the drivers go over those big bumps the tracks caused. It was incredible and scary at the same time because the track was really bumpy but I heard they improved the conditions for this year. The track might not have been ideal but the event was really good with a really great crowd and great weather. It was a lot of fun and a very successful event. If they improved the track for the drivers and the teams everybody is going to be very happy and it will be a great event."

When he arrives to the San Jose race track, Junqueira will have cycling in Mill Valley near San Francisco for four days with fellow drivers Cristiano da Matta and Jan Heylen. On Wednesday, he took a small break from cycling to enjoy another passion -- that of tennis -- when he participated in a hitting session with French Open Semifinalist Nicole Vaidisova, the third seed in this weekend's Bank of the West Classic at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium at nearby Stanford University. On Thursday, defending Bank of the West Classic champion Kim Clijsters, the tournaments top seed, will be shown around the NHR paddock setup and will tour the track with defending winner Bourdais and Junqueira. Although it will be Junqueira's first time to compete here he has spent hours studying the team's setup for the track.

"To prepare for my first race in San Jose I looked at Sebastien's data from last year," said Junqueira. "I looked at the gears he ran and where he got on the brakes around the track and I'll try to do the same. We will basically copy his setup because I've never been there and it's a great starting point."

The Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose will be more than a race. It's a week-long festival both on and off the track. Activities include Speedfest, Pit Stop Park and Festival Areas with interactive games, live music featuring David Lee Roth and Pete Escovedo, driver autograph sessions and more. Off-track events include a golf tournament, a drivers' VIP party, the CXO Go Kart race and the Canary Foundation gala fundraiser. All proceeds from these events are benefiting Canary Foundation.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , Jan Heylen , Cristiano da Matta