CHAMPCAR/CART: Sigma Autosport Motegi preview

MOTEGI, Japan - For the fourth straight year, the teams of the FedEx CART Championship Series will venture to Asia and the land of the rising sun-Japan. It's a popular trip among the CART family, although last season's trip was one that Sigma ...

MOTEGI, Japan - For the fourth straight year, the teams of the FedEx CART Championship Series will venture to Asia and the land of the rising sun-Japan. It's a popular trip among the CART family, although last season's trip was one that Sigma Autosport driver Oriol Servia might want to forget.

The reason is the Catalonian driver would want to put that race behind him is because the day ended for him before he could complete a lap. Servia spun while entering the front straight during the green flag start. He hit the inside wall and ricocheted back on to the middle of the track. Although he was not injured it was the second consecutive race he had not completed any laps.

Even today Servia claims he did not know what happened. He said he wanted to be careful on the start, but figures he may have lost some downforce, thus spinning.

Things are different heading into this year's race. For one, Servia is one of six CART drivers to have completed every lap of all three races, and he comes in with some momentum. Servia qualified a career-best of 3rd at the aborted Firestone Firehawk 600, in Fort Worth, Texas; and he kept up his qualifying efforts with a 4th place start at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, in Nazareth. In addition, he finished 9th, his 11th top-10 of his two-year CART career, and he scored his and Sigma Autosport's first points of the season. The points were the first-ever for the new Chicago-based Sigma Autosport team.

At Nazareth Speedway, Servia ran 2nd for most of the race before ultimately taking his 9th place. Servia is now ranked 13th in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series point standings with four.

Practice for the Firestone Firehawk 500 begins on Thursday, with qualifying starting on Friday afternoon. The Firestone Firehawk 500 will be the first CART race to run on a Saturday this season.

Notes * Servia is the only driver from Catalonia, a region in Spain, racing in the FedEx CART Championship. * This season is Servia's second in the FedEx CART Championship. * His best finish in a CART race was 3rd place at Detroit last season. * Servia's best finish on an oval was 5th place at St. Louis last season. * Servia has finished in the top-10 a total of 11 times. * His best starting position was 3rd at Texas Motor Speedway in April of this year. * Servia was the runner-up for the Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award in 2000. * The Firestone Firehawk 500 will be Servia's 24th career CART start. * Servia won $317,250 in prize money last season. * Servia was the 1999 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Champion. * This will be the fourth start for Sigma Autosport in the FedEx CART Championship Series.

Quotes "Last year I was trying to be safe, but the car just went away from me. I think I lost downforce or something within the wing. I don't really have an explanation. Having said that, Motegi is a place I like because the track and the facilities are very nice. Turn One is very fast while the other ones are quite technical and difficult which make for a good combination. I think we're going to be strong there after our performances in qualifying at Texas and Nazareth." - Oriol Servia, Sigma Autosport Driver

-SA

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia