A TOUGH START TO THE WEEKEND Zolder, Belgium (August 24, 2007) -- The opening day of the Champ Car Belgian Grand Prix was what could only be described as a challenging one for Minardi Team USA drivers Robert Doornbos and Dan Clarke....
A TOUGH START TO THE WEEKEND
Zolder, Belgium (August 24, 2007) -- The opening day of the Champ Car Belgian Grand Prix was what could only be described as a challenging one for Minardi Team USA drivers Robert Doornbos and Dan Clarke. Neither driver participated in qualifying today, for two very different reasons, but both are optimistic about what the future holds.
Robert Doornbos is in his "backyard" in Belgium, just across the border from his native Holland, and everything looked to be in order this morning, as Robert and his crew worked diligently to find an optimal set-up and acclimatize to the track. He was third quickest in this morning's practice and topped the charts in the second session. It was not on the cards, however, and on what was to be Robert's final run of the session, the engine failed in spectacular fashion as he exited the pit lane. It may have brought his Friday efforts to a premature end, but Robert knows as well as anyone that it is a long weekend, and a longer race still. The young Dutchman will surely be someone to watch come tomorrow's second qualifying.
"It was a very unfortunate day for the team, as they worked very hard to get the car competitive in practice. The engine blew in pit lane just before qualifying, and there was nothing we could do about it. I did my job today, which is to drive the car as fast as possible, and we were quickest in the second session. It's not the way we wanted to continue our fight for the Championship, but we'll give it another go tomorrow for the pole. I hope all my fans still come out to support me for the rest of the weekend, as anything is possible in Champ Car. There is quite a bit of racing left in the season, and I think we are going to have a strong fight for the Championship."
Sadly, Dan Clarke's weekend ended almost before it had even begun. He was involved in an incident in this morning's practice session on the opening lap, and several of the cars involved suffered heavy damage, including Dan's. After a lengthy investigation, Race Director, Tony Cotman made the decision to sit Dan out for the remainder of the race weekend due to his participation in the accident. Dan will stick around the racetrack for the remainder of the event, however, and support his team mate and crew as they continue on without him behind the wheel.
"I'm sorry that today's incident happened, but I fully accept Tony Cotman's decision. It's part of the learning process, but I want to apologize to the fans, the other drivers involved, and particularly to my team. I am determined to take the positives out of this, however, and to focus on doing the best possible job in the remaining four races of this year, as well as build on what I've learned this season with Minardi Team USA in 2008. I genuinely hope the other drivers involved in this morning's incident go on to have a positive weekend here in Zolder."
Keith Wiggins, Team Co-Owner:
"Regarding Dan, we support our driver, and yet respect Tony Cotman's decision over the incident this morning. It does not change our long term goals together. We will continue working on things from here and move in a positive direction. We will decide who will be driving the number four car this weekend and make an announcement Saturday morning before the practice session. On another note, it was very frustrating what happened to Robert this afternoon, as once again we were clearly very competitive and confident for qualifying. Unfortunately, we had an engine failure, which is exceptionally unusual with the great reliability we have with these engines. Sometimes in racing these things just happen and we'll look toward tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Co-owner
"We totally support the Race Director's decision following this morning's incident. Having worked with Dan for nearly two seasons, however, the team has every faith that he will bounce back from today and become even stronger in the future. Sadly for Robert, what looked like a good start to the weekend didn't work out that way. Having been P1 for much of the pre-qualifying practice session, he suffered an engine failure while leaving the pits that brought his day to a premature end. Hopefully, all the bad luck is now behind us, and we can look forward to a more positive weekend."