CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Team Australia preview

HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE TO PROPEL TEAM AUSTRALIA AT LEXMARK INDY 300 Team Australia Champ Car drivers Will Power and Alex Tagliani are confident that the Lexmark Indy 300 is shaping as the team's best event yet as the Aussie Vineyards squad ...

HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE TO PROPEL TEAM AUSTRALIA AT LEXMARK INDY 300

Team Australia Champ Car drivers Will Power and Alex Tagliani are confident that the Lexmark Indy 300 is shaping as the team's best event yet as the Aussie Vineyards squad prepares for its home race on Australia's Gold Coast this weekend.

Both Team Australia drivers have enjoyed previous success at the demanding Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, with Tagliani third in 2001 and Power taking wins in support category races in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

The event is not only the home event of Team Australia, it is also especially significant for both drivers. Power hails from the Queensland town of Toowoomba and Canadian driver Tagliani is married to an Australian, former Bartercard Miss Indy contestant Bronte Tagliani.

Power has an enviable record on the Surfers Paradise street circuit. He has raced four times on the challenging layout, including his Champ Car World Series debut with Team Australia at last year's Lexmark Indy 300. Power won support races in Formula Ford (2000), Honda Young Guns (2001) and Formula 3 (2002) while racing in Australia, before becoming reacquainted with the circuit last year.

On debut Power was very impressive, qualifying the #25 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Lola in an exceptional 11th position. Power was running inside the top 10 and on his way to a sensational debut before an incident with team-mate Tagliani ended his race on lap 29 of 57.

The masses of support from his home state fans at last year's event was an inspiration to Power and no doubt the green and gold of Team Australia will be flying high in the packed grandstands of this year's event.

Power currently lies seventh in the championship standings and is only 11 points from former series champion Paul Tracy, who is fourth. The Australian also leads the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings by seven points over British driver Dan Clarke.

With a top five championship finish in his rookie Champ Car season as well as the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year award still up for grabs, Power understands that finishing the Gold Coast event is crucial.

But Power is a racer and the speed the Australian has shown in the #5 Aussie Vineyards Lola at recent rounds means that this his home event will be his best chance yet at grabbing his first Champ Car podium.

Tagliani currently lies 12th in the championship after having several races ruined this season by forces out of his control. Tagliani has switched his focus from points to race results for the last two races of the season and will be pushing hard to get Team Australia on the podium on Sunday afternoon.

Tagliani has already finished on the podium once this season, finishing third in the season-opening race at Long Beach, California. Power's best result so far came in Denver, Colorado when the Australian finished fourth.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY --

Will Power -- #5 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Lola

"This is the place for me to really try hard to get my first Champ Car podium," said Power.

"I've been getting quicker and quicker as the season has progressed and I understand the cars a lot more. This is the first track I have been to this year that I have already raced at and I feel that everything is going well for a strong race this weekend.

"I've had this race in the back of my mind all year. I've been close to a podium a couple of times already this season and felt we had a really strong car at the last race at Road America until we were taken out at the start.

"I've got the Rookie of the Year and also my championship position to think about, so I won't be doing anything silly as I know a finish here is important. But this is Team Australia's home race and it is my home race, so at the same time I will be doing my best in every session to get the Aussie Vineyards car up the front for all the Australian fans."

Alex Tagliani -- #15 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Lola

"This event is all about aiming for the podium and pushing hard," said Tagliani.

"We've had a lot of bad luck in this year's championship so going for race results is now the aim in the last two races of the year, as we have nothing to lose.

"I'll be pushing hard for the team's home race. We have to forget about the back luck and do the best we can here this weekend.

"I love this race. The circuit is very tough and the event is one of the best of the season. I really hope I can get a podium for Team Australia this weekend. I think we have the car speed to run at the front and I have a great team around me, so with a bit of luck it could be a very good day for us on Sunday."

Craig Gore -- Team Australia Co-Owner

"This is what it is all about," said Gore.

"It is just an amazing feeling seeing the Team Australia cars out there and the team standing side-by-side as the Australian national anthem is played on our home track for the season. It just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.

"You can't help but feel proud to be Australian. Can you imagine how much that feeling will be increased if we manage to get on to the podium -- and we are a serious chance.

"This is the first track Will has been to twice in a Champ Car and I think that is going to make a big difference for him. He has been focused on this race all season and is ready to go racing. I don't think he will need much more motivation than 120,000 screaming Aussie fans, including many of his family members.

"Alex is our own adopted Australian and now also has his family in Australia through his wife Bronte. He wants to win this race as much as Will and that can only be a good thing.

"Alex has had his fair share of bad luck this season, but I think the whole team comes he pretty well prepared and ready to do the job. We would just love for the whole of Australia to get behind their team and cheer us on the entire way."

Derrick Walker - Team Australia Co-Owner

"Obviously this is the biggest event of the year for us," said Walker.

"The pressure on everyone is pretty intense, but this is why we are in the business.

"At the end of the day we need to focus on the job at hand and that is trying to win this race.

"We have put together a solid preparation for the race and there is no doubt that both drivers want to be on the podium on Sunday.

"The entire team is motivated and ready to go."

TEAM AUSTRALIA LEXMARK INDY 300 FAST FACTS

Will Power has raced at the Lexmark Indy 300 on four occasions. While his Champ Car debut was at the 2005 event, Power raced from 2000-2002 in support categories, taking a win on all three occasions.

Will Power -- Lexmark Indy 300 Race Results 2005: Qualified 11th, Finish 15th (Contact, Lap 29 of 57)

Alex Tagliani has raced at the Lexmark Indy 300 six times, with his best Australian result coming in 2001 when he finished third behind Cristiano da Matta and Michael Andretti.

There has never been a repeat winner of the Lexmark Indy 300. If the trend is to continue, Team Australia drivers Will Power and Alex Tagliani could be a chance of maintaining what many in Champ Car call the 'Gold Coast Hoodoo'.

Four past winners of the Lexmark Indy 300 are competing in this year's race. They are Paul Tracy, Mario Dominguez, Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais.

-credit: team australia

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta