TEAM AUSTRALIA STAR ALEX TAGLIANI TO TRY HIS HAND AT GRAND-AM RACING THIS WEEKEND AT TROIS-RIVIERES INDIANAPOLIS (August 3, 2006) -- As is the case with a number of the more successful Champ Car World Series drivers, Alex Tagliani ( ...
TEAM AUSTRALIA STAR ALEX TAGLIANI TO TRY HIS HAND AT GRAND-AM RACING THIS WEEKEND AT TROIS-RIVIERES
INDIANAPOLIS (August 3, 2006) -- As is the case with a number of the more successful Champ Car World Series drivers, Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made his way to Champ Car after a number of successful campaigns in the series' Atlantic Championship.
Much of his success came on the Trois-Rivieres circuit that hosted the Atlantic Championship from 1989-2003 as the Canadian-born Tagliani scored two wins from pole at the Quebec track. He never finished worse than fifth at the 1.521-mile circuit in five trips, and will look to keep that streak alive this weekend -- albeit in an entirely different sort of racing machine than he is used to.
Tagliani will join with Grand American Cup Series regular Valerie Limoges for this weekend's event in Trois-Rivieres, piloting the #4 Blackforest Motorsports Group USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Mustang FR500C, supported by Rythem FM Radio and Ameublement Tanguay, a Quebec-based furniture store.
"I know Valerie is racing for Blackforest and I had the chance to meet Tom Nastasi, the owner of the race team," Tagliani said. "I knew that for a long time they've been running a good program and I've seen what they achieved last year with the new Ford Mustang on the track and I was really impressed. At the same time, doing it with Ford, for me, it's an honor because I've been racing for Ford since 2000, I've never driven any other engine in Champ Car and I'm going to try to keep my streak, so jumping in a Grand Am car and being a Ford product it is a perfect tie-in."
Tagliani showed his mastery of the Quebec race course early in his Atlantic career, earning his first career podium in just his eighth start with a third-place run in the 1996 Trois-Rivieres event. However, this weekend will be the first time that Tagliani has raced anything with a roof over his head since he first climbed into a go-kart.
"I'm very excited about going back, I have great memories from this track, I was on the pole and won many races there. I'm very excited, the first lap on that track is going to be fun for me and hopefully I can do a good job for Blackforest and as a partner for Valerie," tells Tagliani. "It's a really different technique, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to adapt as quick as possible. It's a little bit scary because I'm an open-wheel driver and sedan cars -- when you drive open wheel you need to raise the intensity and when you drive sedans you need to lower yourself in the car and basically drive the car and baby the car around."
Babying a Ford Mustang is not usually something Tagliani worries about as he has customized his own Mustang into one of more serious street rods in his current home of Las Vegas.
"I own a Mustang as well for the road, I felt that I had a chance to drive one on the track so why not?" he grinned. "I spent some time with their road car with some engineers on the race track and gave my input on different things and saw the modifications, so I feel kind of part of the family. I have a great relationship with Ford in Champ Car and Ford in Canada. It's been like that since I started my career in 2000. I've been doing a lot of work for them. I believe in the product, I believe in the new vision."
Tagliani tells that while he has yet to race a Grand-Am Cup machine, he would consider trying some more events in the future as his demanding Champ Car schedule allows. The list of Champ Car stars to compete in selected Grand-Am events just this year includes Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser, Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger, with Wilson and Allmendinger teaming up to finish second with Michael Shank Racing in this season's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
"This thing has been something I wanted to do on a regular basis, I would like to drive for Ford also at the Daytona Race in the Prototype Series, just to get myself more into racing," said Tagliani. "We have 14 (Champ Car races) this season, so for me having one or two races here or there, I don't think it will change anything, but it will actually be better. Team Australia knows that it doesn't interfere with my Champ Car driving. They are happy, especially with the Ford combination with myself driving there."
The on-track action will get underway on Friday, with qualifying slated for Saturday, with the two-hour race set for a 3:15 p.m. green flag on Sunday afternoon.