Champ Car Stars on Track in Daytona
INDIANAPOLIS (January 10, 2005) -- Current and former stars of the Champ Car World Series were on track this weekend at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Three series champions headline the list of stars that drove during the three-day test session for the 24-hour endurance race. Sebastien Bourdais ('04), Paul Tracy ('03) and Emerson Fittipaldi ('89) all lapped the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course and were joined by former Champ Car driver Christian Fittipaldi and team owner Paul Newman.
Bourdais is teamed with his car owner Paul Newman for the event in the Newman Racing entry. The team was able to turn in a best time of 1:52.237 seconds but also ran into some difficulty on the weekend when Newman spun in Turn 2. He did not make contact with any of the barriers but the car did catch on fire when he attempted to restart it. Newman was unhurt as the fire was contained in the engine compartment and did not reach the cockpit.
"I don't know what happened," said Newman. "I'm fine; it just caught on fire somehow."
Bourdais spent Saturday getting used the differences between his Champ Car and the sports car he will be driving next month.
"The car is really different," said the 2004 series champion. "It has very little mechanical grip and the car is sliding around. I am really looking forward to racing with Paul, (Newman) he's a great owner and now I'm learning that he is just as good as a teammate,"
The Bell Motorsports team including Paul Tracy and Christian Fittipaldi are looking to repeat as the overall race winners. The drivers wheeled the Bell Motorsports machine to a best time of 1:49.183 seconds and were consistently among the top-ten in each of the eight practice sessions. Also taking a turn behind the wheel was 1989 Champ Car World Series champion Emerson Fittipaldi, who has not been in a race car since his final Champ Car race in 1996.
"I wanted to go back in an official practice like today with a lot of cars to see how it would feel on a race day," said Fittipaldi. "It felt great! There were a lot of people passing me, and I was very careful of people overtaking me. But then I started passing some people and started having fun again."
Also getting some track time was Guy Smith who started seven races for the Rocketsports Racing team last season. Smith is a noted endurance racer whose resume includes a win in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The field for the Rolex 24 at Daytona is littered with Champ Car experience as more than 15 drivers who have made a start in the series are scheduled to drive in the historic sports car race. Practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona begins on February 3 with the race starting at noon on February 5 and ending at noon on February 6.