CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Andreas Wirth race report

Champ Car Dreams Come True in Paradise for Andreas Wirth Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia -- October 23, 2006 -- After a few whirlwind weeks of preparation, Andreas Wirth finally got to enjoy the results of all the hard work as he made...

Champ Car Dreams Come True in Paradise for Andreas Wirth

Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia -- October 23, 2006 -- After a few whirlwind weeks of preparation, Andreas Wirth finally got to enjoy the results of all the hard work as he made his Champ Car debut in beautiful Surfer's Paradise, Australia this past weekend. While one of the most beautiful destinations on the Champ Car circuit, this seaside street course is also one of the most challenging that Champ Car drivers face each year, evidenced by the fact that there has never been a repeat winner in the sixteen years of competition on the Gold Coast. Some might agree that a debut in Surfer's Paradise would be nothing short of baptism by fire. However, despite the beauty and distractions that Surfer's Paradise serves up, Andreas Wirth took it all in stride, putting in a solid performance to be proud of.

Preparing for his first day on track, Andreas knew that what lay ahead for the weekend would be one of the biggest steps in his racing career. Having little experience in the bigger, heavier, and more physically demanding Champ Cars, and no test laps on the tricky streets of Surfer's Paradise, Wirth's Friday results were remarkable and showed real promise.

While he was able to continually better his own lap times through two practice sessions and qualifying, Wirth was disappointed when he brought the red flags out in provisional qualifying. The rookie explained, "It's a tough track to learn, and for sure a hard place to make your start without any testing. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. It was really unfortunate in qualifying when I ran out of fuel, which brought out the red flag and meant I lost my fastest time, but we'll do better tomorrow."

While Wirth may have run out of fuel, bringing out the red flags in provisional qualifying, he can be proud that in all, his entire weekend was incident free. On such a tough track, Andreas' clean run is truly significant for the rookie, as several seasoned veterans met hard times as they made contact with walls and a small tire barrier which even put one championship contender out of competition for the weekend.

With a new day, Saturday meant valuable opportunities for much needed seat time and practice. Sadly though, a red flag shortened Saturday's first practice by a third, and two incidents in qualifying hindered Wirth's best efforts. Commenting on his second day, Wirth remarked, "It was a tough day. I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable in the car, but I really need more seat time, so it's disappointing that our practice session was so short. It was disappointing too in qualifying -- a red flag came out when I was on my fastest lap. But I'm feeling good in the car, so I'm really looking forward to the race!" Despite the disappointments that came with day two, Andreas clocked his best lap in Surfer's Paradise on Saturday with a 1 minute 35.176 seconds.

Race day excitement came all too fast, and before he knew it, Wirth was on the grid with no more preparation time available before his big race debut. Starting from the last row on the grid in 17th place, Andreas had no where to go but up. As the laps counted down, Wirth simply became more and more at home in his new ride. With each lap came experience and his confidence grew. Eventually, as pit strategies came into play, Wirth found himself running as high as fifth place amidst his long-time racing heroes. Crossing the finish line in ninth place driving the #19 Dale Coyne/Sonny's Bar-B-Q racing entry, Andreas can be extremely proud of what was simply an awesome rookie run. Wirth remained on the lead lap throughout the race, and showed determination and composure under pressure. Noteworthy too is the fact that Andreas finished second-highest of the eight rookies that competed in Australia, most of whom have run all season long in Champ Car. The elated young German beamed as he re-lived the experience, "It was awesome out there today! It was so cool to be racing with PT (Paul Tracy) -- of course I had to let him by, but it was still great running behind him. It was great to go racing with my heroes! I felt great in the car, and everything was just awesome! In the middle of the race, I was getting more and more comfortable and competitive. I'm still in the learning stages, and I have to learn more on cold tires. I really think I could have finished 6th or 7th if I were better at that -- I just lost way too much time. It was really a great experience though. My goal was to make it through without any mistakes and preferably in the top ten, so I'm very, very happy that I managed to achieve that!"

With so many differences between Champ Car and his previous Atlantic sprint-ride, it was no small feat for Andreas to run competitively with the stars of open-wheel racing. All-new for Wirth this weekend in his first-ever Champ Car run were; a bigger, heavier car with more horsepower, optional tires, Cosworth Power-to-Pass, pit stops, a new team and engineer, a new and physically demanding track to learn, additional media attention, an exceptional schedule of pre-race festivities, and a field full of tough, veteran racers. Andreas remarked, "At the end I started worrying about physical things, but as it turned out, I wasn't even tired! I enjoyed this race even more than the Atlantics -- it's just different, and I had way more adrenaline. I guess that, and the fact that I've been working my ass off these past few weeks has really paid off. I just can't wait to do it all over again -- it was so cool! I have to thank Dale Coyne again for this opportunity to run in Champ Car -- it's been amazing. And my thanks also to the whole team, and everyone that helped to make this all possible."

-credit: Andreas Wirth Racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Andreas Wirth , Dale Coyne