St. Pete: KVT/Team Australia preview

POWER RETURNS TO HIS STRONG SUIT AT ST PETERSBURG Will Power returns to his strongest racing discipline at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg for Round 2 of the 2008 IndyCar Series on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida...

POWER RETURNS TO HIS STRONG SUIT AT ST PETERSBURG

Will Power returns to his strongest racing discipline at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg for Round 2 of the 2008 IndyCar Series on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida this weekend.

After competing in his IndyCar debut and only his second-ever oval race last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 27-year-old is now focusing on a form of racing that is very familiar to the Australian.

Power has had great success on street circuits in his career to date, with wins on street courses across three continents in various forms of open-wheel racing.

The driver from Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia started his affinity with the fast, concrete-lined Surfers Paradise street circuit back in 2000 by qualifying fastest and winning the Formula Ford support race at the Gold Coast Indy 300 race, the same year that Adrian Fernandez won the Australian event.

In his time racing in Europe, Power dominated the competition in World Series by Renault at the Bilbao street circuit in Spain in a field that included current Formula One driver Robert Kubica.

And of course, Power was renowned for his driving at street circuits in Champ Car, where he secured two race wins on the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada and Toronto, Canada in 2007, as well as claiming pole position for his home race in Australia at one of the world's toughest street circuits for the second-consecutive year last October.

This weekend at St Petersburg Power will be aiming to continue the progress and hard work of the last month. Power and the KV Racing Technology team have had to work virtually non-stop to learn a completely new race car -- the Honda-powered Dallara IndyCar -- since the unification of US open-wheel racing in late February.

Power and the crew on the #8 Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone are still learning the car and working at closing the gap to the established IndyCar teams, but take measured confidence into this weekend's street race at St Petersburg.

Not only does the team have the benefit of the experience gained from last weekend's 2008 IndyCar Series to draw from, Power and team-mate Oriol Servia each topped a day of the two-day road course test for transitional IndyCar teams at the Sebring road course two weeks ago.

Practice for the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg begins on Friday, with PEAK Motor Oil qualifying on Saturday, featuring a unique three-stage knockout format for the first time. On Sunday, the 100-lap race will be staged, shown live on ESPN in both the United States and Australia (see below for broadcast times).

WHAT THE TEAM HAD TO SAY --

Will Power - #8 Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone

"I've had a good look at the St Petersburg street circuit and it looks like a great track," said Power.

"It has a similar feel to my home race in Surfers Paradise because the track is right next to the water and there are some really challenging sections.

"I'm really looking forward to getting on a street circuit in the Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia car. Both my wins last season came on street circuits and I've always loved racing on street circuits right from the start of my career.

"We are still going to be behind the existing IndyCar teams but coming to a street circuit certainly closes the gap. After this weekend we will have a much clearer indication of where we are at compared to the other teams and in what areas we need to concentrate our development.

"I had a lot of fun running the oval for what feels like a whole week at Homestead and the team and I learned a huge amount over the four days we had on-track there. I will definitely feel a little bit more at home on the street circuit at St Pete this weekend and I can't wait to get out there and hopefully challenge for a strong result."

Craig Gore - Team Australia

"The circuit at St Pete will be new to Will but it will certainly be something that he and the team are a little more used to," said Gore.

"The existing IndyCar teams will still be very tough to beat, but I think we have a chance to run a lot stronger this weekend. Not only is a street circuit a plus, but Will and the crew on the Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia car now have four test days and a full race weekend's worth of experience under their belts.

"There is still a long way to go but so far the team has done a simply outstanding job.

"I know Will is itching to get out there on the track and show what the number eight Aussie Vineyards car is capable of and it will be a good indication of where we are at compared to some of the other teams."

-credit: team australia

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Series INDYCAR