Rocketsports finishes an open-wheel era on top by recording fastest race lap in an otherwise disappointing race in Long Beach
LONG BEACH, California (April 20, 2008) - Rocketsports Racing may have had a rough weekend on track in Long Beach, but the ultimate goal was to take one last chance to run the magnificent DP01 race cars and have an opportunity to thank all of the supporters and fans of the Champ Car World Series. That goal was accomplished and Rocketsports was able to demonstrate the top speed of a Champ Car during the race around the 1.968-mile temporary street course in downtown Long Beach, California with Antonio Pizzonia by logging the fastest race lap in this afternoon's main event.
It appeared to be a beautiful day to go racing, as the sun was shining, but a little black cloud remained over the #10 Rocketsports car during the morning warm-up session. Juho Annala got loose in Turn 9, hooking the car and making contact on driver's right with the wall. The Rocketsports team wasn't ready to call it a day just yet, repairing the damage and getting the car ready for Annala to make his first, and last, Champ Car start this afternoon.
He was able to do just that, but the problems just didn't end there. After making a success standing start from the 20th spot on the grid, Annala had managed to get his way to as high as 16th in the field before his day went sour. The #10 Rocketsports crew decided to take advantage of an early yellow, bringing the Finnish driver in for his first pit stop of the day on Lap 7. This was the first time for the 24-year-old driver to do a pit stop during the race, and his first and second stops went without a flaw. Then issues arose on track and Annala was brought back into the pits on Lap 42 for further inspection on what seemed to be a braking issue. His day would end there, his running status marked a mechanical failure and he finished 18th overall.
Antonio Pizzonia made his fifth Champ Car start this afternoon in the 15th spot. Making his first standing start in a Champ Car with no problem, Pizzonia demonstrated the car was quick after moving into the top ten on Lap 13. He came in for his first pit stop of the day on Lap 27 and when the car was lifted into the air for the routine tires and fuel stop, the car stalled. He would end up a lap down after trouble in the pits. And the day's issues for the #10 Rocketsports car did not end there. Ultimately, he went on to accomplish a positive for the team, recording the fastest race lap with a time of 1:08.252 (103.804 mph), showing that despite the problems experienced in the race and finishing 16th, he did have a car that could have been a real contender.
Today marks the end, for now, to an open-wheel era for Rocketsports Racing. However, the team looks forward to the future and where they will end up. Team owner Paul Gentilozzi sums up the overall experience well in his quote below, showing that the team is not ready to leave the racing scene just yet. Future plans will be revealed when available. Please stay tuned to the Rocketsports website, www.rocketsportsracing.com.
Antonio Pizzonia #9 Borla Exhaust/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone
"We were looking quite good, to be honest, I think we managed to improve the #10 Borla Exhaust/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car by quite a lot from yesterday. We made some big changes to the car, which went in the right direction. Unfortunately, we had the problem with some kind of sensor, which made the car stall during our first pit stop. After that, I couldn't use the pit limiter anymore and we had a few other problems with changing gears and with some other sensor issues. In the end, it was just stay out there and finish what we started. It is nice to end the race with the fastest lap; it shows that we had the pace this afternoon, but luck just wasn't on our side. I would like to thank the entire Rocketsports team for this opportunity; it was a pleasure working with them again and my engineer John Gentilozzi. It was nice to be a part of such a historical event, but sad that this is the end to a great series like Champ Car."
Juho Annala #10 Pulp Management Agency/Rockstar Energy Drink/Rocketsports
"I had some problem in the brakes; I started to lose the brakes almost 10 laps earlier from when I pulled into the pits and we decided that our day was over. The (brake) pedal just wouldn't come back to me when I braked. So basically they failed on us today. It is a shame, it has been a rough weekend, but at the same time such an amazing learning experience for me. I would like to thank Paul Gentilozzi and the entire Rocketsports team for giving me such an amazing opportunity to run with them in a Champ Car and the final Champ Car race. It was a good weekend overall, I had a good time working with the team and having the chance to drive a Champ Car on this amazing circuit."
Paul Gentilozzi, Rocketsports Racing Team Owner
"Obviously, for us, it looked like it was our first race of the year and we hadn't done any testing. Antonio (Pizzonia) we are really proud of. We had an electronics mistake; the Pit Lane Speed limiter malfunctioned and caused the car to stall during our first pit stop of the day. That was a real shame because we set the fastest race lap with the #10 Borla Exhaust/Rocketsports Champ Car and he consistently ran laps matching the leaders, but sometimes the bitter comes with that. For Juho (Annala), I was really proud of him. He came here without any experience in these kinds of cars and that was a very daunting task. He drove a fine event; it is just tough, tough to do. And I think he appreciates that a little more now having had this experience.
All in all, when you turn the page, something ends and something else begins."