CHAMPCAR/CART: Tora impressive during tests at two kinds of desert tracks

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 26, 2001 -- Walker Racing wrapped up a busy week of testing at two Arizona tracks yesterday and rookie driver Tora (Tiger) Takagi was among the fastest at both. Tora's active week began at Firebird East's 1.25-mile ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 26, 2001 -- Walker Racing wrapped up a busy week of testing at two Arizona tracks yesterday and rookie driver Tora (Tiger) Takagi was among the fastest at both. Tora's active week began at Firebird East's 1.25-mile permanent road course on Jan. 20-- 21 and he posted the fastest unofficial lap (47.1 seconds) of all CART drivers who participated during the two-day test.

The reigning Formula Nippon champion's test is particularly impressive since it is just his second in a Champ Car (the first was at Sebring on Jan. 9 -- 11) and he logged a total of 267 laps and 335 miles during his two days at Firebird. Tora had three on-track spins and one off during his time on track, but is continuing to make excellent progress in learning how the CART cars work. The Walker Racing team spent Monday and Tuesday converting the car to an oval track set-up in preparation for Tora's first oval test ever, which took place on Wednesday (Jan. 24) at the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway. Veteran CART owner

Derrick Walker was impressed with his rookies performance. "It was Tora's first time on an oval, but that wasn't a big deal for him at the end of the day," said Derrick. "Hess already come a long way in a very short time and my first impression is Hess going to do just fine." Tora ran a total of 142 incident-free laps on Wednesday with a best time of 22.0 sec. Engineers Al Bodey and Yoshi Iwashita worked with Team Manager

Rob Edwards to help dial out understeer in the car and increase Tora's comfort level in the car. On Tora's second oval track day (Jan. 25) it was clear that the Japanese rookie was adapting quickly. He ran 50 total laps (again without incident) and his best time of the day was 21.4 sec., only eight-tenths slower than the fastest car at the test. "I'm very impressed by his rapid progress given that he had never driven on an oval until yesterday," said Walker. "The team did a good job and prepared a reliable car and it was a very productive test." The Walker

Race team and Tora resume their off-season test schedule next week at the oval in Homestead, Fla., in preparation for the first race of the CART FedEx Championship Series season on Mar. 11 in Monterrey, Mexico.

Walker Racing's sponsor partners are DENSO Corporation, Pioneer Electronics, Firestone, PPG, Craftsman, St. Elmo Steakhouse, Toyota and Reynard.

-Lis Sommers

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Series IndyCar