Champ Car World Series Champions Bourdais, Tracy and Da Matta Expected To Join This Weekend's Rolex 24 Testing at Daytona
INDIANAPOLIS (January 4, 2005) -- The three most recent champions of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will likely be heading to Florida this weekend to get a jump on the 2005 racing season as they participate in testing for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
2004 series champion Sebastien Bourdais and 2003 titlist Paul Tracy have confirmed their intentions to compete in the February 3-6 road racing event, and are expected to be joined by 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta. A number of drivers with strong Champ Car ties will be gearing up for runs at the prestigious Rolex 24 crown this weekend as the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series opens up the 3.56-mile road circuit at the Daytona International Speedway for three days of testing January 7-9.
Tracy will join former Champ Car pilot Christian Fittipaldi in the 2004 race-winning Bell Motorsports machine, while Bourdais will partner with five-time championship-winning team owner Paul Newman in the Newman Racing entry. Newman has made a number of appearances in the Rolex 24 with a 1995 IMSA GTS class victory to his credit, a victory he earned at the age of 70. The Bourdais/Newman/Michael Brockman team is expected to be joined by da Matta, who won the 2002 championship for Newman/Haas before moving to Formula 1.
"Other guys like Sebastien and Jimmy have been driving whether it was in Baja or the Race of Champions or whatever and I didn't want to be sitting idle," said Tracy. "I was not happy with how the 2004 season ended for our team. We aren't scheduled to test our Champ Car until January and this won't interfere with anything we do, so I thought this would be a great way to get ready for the 2005 season."
A trio of other drivers that made Champ Car starts in 2004 will also be participating in the test days as they prepare for the twice-around-the-clock event. Former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Guy Smith, veteran Memo Gidley and rookie Michael Valiante will kick-start their racing seasons at Daytona this coming weekend. Smith and Gidley raced for Rocketsports Racing in 2004 while Valiante made his Champ Car World Series debut at the season finale in Mexico City, running for Walker Racing. Valiante and Gidley will be teammates in the Ten Motorsports entry while Smith will have former Dale Coyne Racing driver Joel Camathias as a partner in the Orbit Racing machine.
Along with those mentioned above, 14 other drivers with Champ Car experience under their belts will be competing in the Rolex 24 Hours including sports-car aces Jan Lammers, Didier Theys, Scott Pruett and Max Papis. A number of other drivers from the Toyota Atlantic and Formula BMW ranks will be testing including 2004 competitors Jonathan Bomarito and Brian Friselle. In addition, another driver with Champ Car ties will be strapping in when the green flag drops in Daytona as Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach General Manager Jim Michaelian will compete in the endurance classic.