CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Rocketsports Racing race report

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 24, 2004) -- Guy Smith earned the third top-ten finish of his rookie Champ Car season on the challenging Surfers Paradise street course. Smith started 18th and drove the No. 17 Rocketsports Lola hard to a ...

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 24, 2004) -- Guy Smith earned the third top-ten finish of his rookie Champ Car season on the challenging Surfers Paradise street course. Smith started 18th and drove the No. 17 Rocketsports Lola hard to a ninth-place finish in the Lexmark Indy 300. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Tagliani suffered his first incomplete race of the season when contact with the No.34 car sent him into a concrete barrier. Damage to the left rear suspension of the No.8 Johnson Controls car terminated his race in lap 20 of 57 on the 2.79 mile race track.

In six starts of his rookie Champ Car season, Guy Smith scored his second ninth-place finish (his third top-ten). The young Brit, who earned the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours victory, demonstrated his skill and grit as a driver with the impressive finish on the tough Surfers Paradise circuit. Smith only joined the Champ Car competition with Rocketsports in Round Eight at Road America (his first top-ten finish). He has faced three unfortunate mechanical or electrical situations that have prevented him from finishing, but endured one of the most challenging races on the schedule to sit among the top-ten again.

"It's a great feeling to have the No. 17 Rocketsports car finish in the top ten again," said a relieved Smith. "My crew did a great job with the pit stops and the car was the best it's been all weekend. It took a while for it (the car) to reach its potential, but we improved our times and performance in the race and as the weekend advanced, even despite loosing Friday to shifting issues, which the crew solved. I was a little conservative to start with, as this course was new to me and notorious for incidents. The strong finish is a good boost heading into the season finale in Mexico City."

Alex Tagliani made his fifth start on the Surfers Paradise street course from tenth spot on the grid. Very early in the race, the left side pod on the No.8 Johnson Controls Lola came apart, which caused a slight delay in Tagliani's first pit stop, and forced him to re-enter in 12th position. Tagliani was running 11th and attempting to make another pass on lap 20 when contact with the No. 34 car sent him into the concrete barrier. Tagliani finished 19th and collected two race points.

"It was a bit of a wild start to the race for the No.8 Johnson Controls car," admitted Tagliani, "and a shame to have been put out because of a race incident. We lost valuable points, and a strong finish was important for the Johnson Controls team to maintain out top-five position in the championship battle. We've been fortunate to have consistent finishes all season, but we need to take the good with the bad. We'll do our best in Mexico City for a positive end to the season."

With 208 championship points, Tagliani now ranks sixth in the Champ Car World Series competition. He has secured two podiums this season, including his first career win. Despite today's incomplete race, Tagliani still ranks third among modern era Champ Car drivers for the highest percentage of laps completed in a season, highlighting the tremendous competitiveness and consistency of the sophomore Rocketsports team and engineering staff.

Rocketsports' lead engineer Brian Ma reflected on the challenging weekend in Surfers Paradise. "Congratulations to Guy (Smith) and the No. 17 crew for another top-ten finish," said Ma. "The surfers street course is challenging and not easy on rookies, but Guy did everything right to get a feel for the car and learn the track. This good result is a boost to the moral of the No.17 Rocketsports team.

"Unfortunately Alex (Tagliani) and the No. 8 Johnson Controls crew didn't end with the result we came here hoping for. We expected to build on Tag's strong performance in Surfers in 2003, but struggled with the set up and faced set backs in qualifying. The crew pulled through and we managed to put together a fast car for the race. Tag made strong gains to move ahead in the grid, until his unfortunate meeting with Wilson. We'll have to work a little harder for a strong finish in Mexico City and get back into the top five in series championship," concluded Ma, with a look ahead to Round Fourteen of the Champ Car World Series, set for November 7th in Mexico City.

-rsr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Guy Smith , Alex Tagliani