11 SEASON-OPENING WINS IN PREVIOUS 28 ATTEMPTS
Newman/Haas Racing will begin their 29th consecutive season of competition in 2011. In their previous 28 season-opening races, the team has won 11 times (’05 & ‘06 – Bourdais, Long Beach; ’02 – da Matta, Mexico; ’01 da Matta, Mexico; ’98 Michael Andretti, Homestead, ’97 Mi. Andretti, Homestead; ’93 Mansell, Australia; ’88 Mario Andretti, Phoenix; ’87 Ma. Andretti, Long Beach; ’85 Ma. Andretti, Long Beach; ’84 Ma. Andretti, Long Beach). Oriol Servia will drive the No. 02 Newman/Haas Racing Dallara-Honda-Firestone entry at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and attempt to extend this record.
ORIOL HAS BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO HIS NEXT RACE FOR A WHILE
Servia, a native of Catalonia, Spain, has made 15 starts for NHR which include his first Indy car win (Montreal 2005) and pole (Surfers Paradise, Australia 2005) as well as a total of seven top-three, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. In 2005, Servia replaced NHR driver Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a season-ending injury at the Indy 500 on May 29, and then went on to finish second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the point standings after a partial season of only 11 events with the team. Servia returned to NHR in 2009 for four races with a season-best finish of fourth place at Twin Ring Motegi on 9-19-09, which is his most recent race in an Indy car. “I am more than excited to return to racing in St. Petersburg!” said Servia. “I am energized, focused and better prepared than ever. Well, I guess it sounds like I may be excited? I have watched last year’s race and read the famous NHR preparation report for St. Pete a few times. We are ready.”
SERVIA EXPECTS TO SHINE IN ST. PETE AFTER SUCCESSFUL BARBER TEST
Servia tested with the team in Sebring for two days in December 2010 and again at the open test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 14-15 where he set the fifth fastest time overall. “I honestly believe the test couldn't have gone better. I found the whole Newman/Haas team exactly how I left it: willing to do whatever it takes to let the driver do what he does best and get to the front. With one difference though and that is that the whole team is hungrier than ever and everybody is working like it was their first race, only with 28 years of experience. I expect us to be competitive from the get go in St. Pete. No excuses of being rusty after a year off or anything. I feel ready and the team has a great track record in St Pete and all street races in general. I expect us to shine.”
1 WIN, 2 POLES & 2 PODIUMS IN FOUR RACES IN ST. PETERSBURG FOR TEAM
This will be Newman/Haas Racing’s FIFTH race here. The team first competed in the Champ Car race here in 2003 with then-rookie Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. Bourdais won the pole position in his Champ car debut and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Nigel Mansell won the pole for the ’93 Australian event – also while driving for NHR. He led 30 laps and became the first driver in the 25 year history of series to lead the first laps of his inaugural Champ car race. He also set the fastest race lap but he put too much pressure on himself to get back to the front after the team pit him out of sequence and contact ended his race. Junqueira was 2nd fast in prov. qualifying on Friday but his fastest lap in final qualifying (possible 3rd) was not allowed because he brought out a red flag when he spun and stopped on course. More red flags resulted in a seventh place start and he dropped to 14th in the race due an air hose problem in the pits but charged back to a 3rd place finish…Justin Wilson started third here in 2008 but alternate pit strategy in a rain-soaked event dropped him to a 9th place finish while Graham Rahal started ninth and became the youngest winner in series history in his debut after holding off Castroneves and Kanaan for two restarts to win by a 3.5-second margin…In 2009, Rahal ran the fastest lap times on Friday and Saturday on the streets of St. Pete to become the youngest pole winner in series history at 20 years, 90 days old. As the field entered the wide Turn 1 at the start of the race, second place starter Justin Wilson pulled slightly ahead on Rahal’s left while fifth place starter Dario Franchitti made a daring move on his right heading into the right hander. Rahal was not only squeezed in the process, he was hit from behind by Tony Kanaan which spun him sideways and into the grass. He dropped to the rear of the field but rebounded to finish seventh. Robert Doornbos qualified 13th, ran as high as fifth place but finished 11th after having to pit to repair damage from contact while alongside Wheldon for a pass…In 2010, Hideki Mutoh progressed to Round 2 of qualifying in St. Pete despite a morning crash that had the team scrambling to prepare the car in time for qualifying. He started 12th, ran as high as second place for eight laps but finished 14th after multiple pit strategies and an engine stall on his final stop limited his finish.
NHR ON ROAD AND STREET COURSES
Since being formed by Carl Haas and Paul Newman in the fall of 1982, the team has earned a total of 107 wins and 109 pole positions. Eighty of their 107 wins and 90 of their 109 poles came on road and street courses. The team’s previous win on a road/street course was in Detroit by Justin Wilson on 8-31-08. Their previous pole on a road/street course was in the St. Pete season opener in 2009 by Graham Rahal (4-4-09). Nine of the 18 races on the 2011 schedule are on road and street courses.
ORIOL WILL PAY TRIBUTE TO HIS IDOL SALVADOR DALI AT THE TRACKSIDE MUSEUM
The Honda Grand Prix, billed as the “world’s fastest spring break,” takes place on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn waterfront racetrack that runs through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. The course circles Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey Theatre, Salvador Dali Museum and extends onto runways at the Albert Whitted Airport. Servia honors famed Spanish artist Salvador Dali on his racing helmet. Both hail from the Catalan region of Spain and both claim to be inspired by the Tramontana winds. “I have good memories of the track and the event in general and I am looking forward to going back there. I will be wearing my Dali helmet and with the new Dali museum just reopening, I feel I have a special connection with the event. It is the biggest Dali museum outside of Spain and I am really looking forward to going there on Thursday afternoon.”
ORIOL HOPES TO “MAKE SOME MAGIC” DURING TWO-WIDE RESTARTS
Side-by-side restarts will be employed for all races in 2011 and the restart zone will move closer to the start-finish line. “I do not have a strong opinion in favor or against it,” said Servia. “As long as they are able to clean the marbles before each restart I do not see a big problem with it. Yes there will be more action meaning more "crash damage" for the team owners but it is my understanding that it is the owners who pushed most for this change. For the drivers it just gives us another chance to make some "magic happen" more often during the race. And it will give the fans exciting replays when we achieve or fail in 'making that magic!'”
SERVIA ON THE MOST COMPETITIVE FIELD IN 10 YEARS
“This year will be the most competitive season in open wheel history in the last 10 years. The combination of good drivers in well prepared teams is unmatched. There are at least 20 drivers with real potential of winning each race. When you start looking at the entry list you just cannot count anybody out. I bet we will see 20 drivers within one second in the first qualifying session of the year. There will be no time to blink! It will be exciting for the fans and mega-competitive for us and that is what creates the best racing.”
SERVIA ON WHAT HE MISSED ABOUT RACING & WHAT HE LEARNED ABOUT HIMSELF LAST YEAR
“I have learned how privileged we are in many ways. For me, racing gives a black and white chance to test yourself at the limit, on speed, performing on track, off track with engineers and setup. It is similar to the rush that you get during your finals week in college but it lasts all year long and you are doing something a lot more fun!”
ORIOL ON HIS PREVIOUS TWO RACES IN ST. PETE
The 2011 event will mark Servia’s third race in St. Pete. He competed in the 2003 Champ Car race here where he started ninth and finished 12th for Visteon/Patrick Racing. The 2008 race here was his first in an Indy car after the reunification of open wheel racing. He started and finished seventh for KV Racing. Servia is excited to return to the street course. “The Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete is one of the best street tracks we go to. As I often say, I think it would only need a couple more "city blocks" to add length and become a perfect layout but again, we drivers never have enough track. I felt very comfortable with the track layout from my first lap in 2003. We were very competitive and should have challenged for pole in qualifying but unfortunately I brushed the wall early in the session. In the race we took some risks with the strategy to try to get to the front but it didn't go our way. In 2008 it was our first Indy car race on the streets and we didn't know the car well enough. It was a quick learning curve and we were challenging for the podium in the race but the intermittent rain added confusion to the strategy. We were able to have a decent finish though.”