CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Conquest Racing Saturday report

Mi-Jack Conquest Racing drivers Wilson and Philippe improve in final qualifying to take 7th and 14th on the Lexmark Indy 300 grid Surfers Paradise, Australia (23 October 04) Mi-Jack Conquest Racing drivers Justin Wilson and Nelson Philippe...

Mi-Jack Conquest Racing drivers Wilson and Philippe improve in final qualifying to take 7th and 14th on the Lexmark Indy 300 grid

Surfers Paradise, Australia (23 October 04) Mi-Jack Conquest Racing drivers Justin Wilson and Nelson Philippe both set their fastest times of the weekend to take seventh and fourteenth on the grid during the final qualifying session for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300. The rookie pairing have improved every session during the weekend as they learn the fast way around the temporary street circuit, and are looking forward to tomorrows fifty-seven lap event.

Wilson has been working hard with his engineer Don Bricker to get the most out of his Mi-Jack machine, and moved up three positions on the grid for Sunday's race.

"I'm pretty pleased with the lap I put in-it's always good when you can get your fastest lap during qualifying when it counts," said Wilson. "I just kept braking later and later each lap, and we were able to close the gap to the pole time, so we know we are going in the right direction. There is still room for improvement, but we got everything out of the car we could today."

Wilson, who has five finishes in the top seven so far this season, knows that the Surfers Paradise event can be unpredictable, but is feeling competitive in advance of the race.

"This should be an interesting race start, as it gets very tight in the first few corners, so hopefully we can get through cleanly and attack from there. There are certainly some places for overtaking, so it should be a good race tomorrow."

Fellow rookie Philippe has shown well in his first visit to the challenging 2.795-mile temporary street and has continued to impress the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing squad, improving his best lap time by nearly three seconds on Saturday to score fourteenth on the grid.

"We have seen a lot of experienced drivers have problems on this track this weekend, but Nelson hasn't put a wheel wrong and he just keeps getting faster," said Mi-Jack Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart. "It is all the more impressive when you consider that this is just his twentieth race ever since moving up from karts, so we are pleased with the progress he has made so far and are looking forward a good race tomorrow."

Nelson has been pushing his Mi-Jack Lola hard all weekend, and is still looking for more has he has been growing his confidence around the tricky street circuit, which features several fast chicane sections that require tremendous commitment, as well as slower technical sections leading into some very long straights.

"It isn't quite what we were hoping for, but we have been improving every session and ran our fastest lap of the weekend in final qualifying, so it's good how much progress we've made so far. This is a very challenging track, but I think it's one of the best street circuits we race on. I feel more comfortable each lap I do around here."

The young rookie knows that Sunday's race will be a long one and is aiming to get a good start, and move up the order on his way to the finish.

"Mi-Jack Conquest Racing always prepares an excellent race car, so now we will just focus on getting ready for the race on Sunday," said Philippe. "It's going to be a long race, and this place has had some unpredictable results in the past, so we'll just try to get through the start without any problems, and go racing."

1991 Indy Lights Champion Eric Bachelart started Conquest Racing in 1997 to compete in the Indy Lights series, scoring a podium finish with driver Christophe Tinseau in the team's first season. Conquest Racing competed in the next four seasons in Indy Lights, winning races with Felipe Giaffone and Kristian Kolby. Mike Lanigan, President of Mi-Jack Products, an intermodal Chicago based company became a co-owner in 2002. Mi-Jack Conquest racing contested the 2002 Indy Racing League season with rookie Laurent Redon, netting a podium finish in just the third race of the season and clinched the Rookie of the year award.

Mi-Jack Conquest racing rejoined the Champ Car family in 2003, stepping up to the Champ Car World Series with Brazilian Mario Haberfeld and scoring eleven top-ten finishes despite competing with a Reynard. The team is proud to be contesting its second season in the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, with rookie drivers Justin Wilson and Nelson Philippe.

-mjcr-

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Series INDYCAR