RLR/Andersen Racing Tabs Romancini For Full Firestone Indy Lights Campaign
PALMETTO, Fla., March 3 - One of the most competitive rides in the Firestone Indy Lights Series will go to Brazil's Mario Romancini.
RLR/Andersen Racing co-owner Dan Andersen announced today that the 21-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil will be behind the wheel of his team's No. 5, which will be sponsored by Allied Building Products Corp., Win Brazil Marketing and Revita, a recycling company for paper, plastic and aluminum beverage bottles and cans.
Romancini is signed to participate in the full 15-race season and compete for both the championship and the series' Rookie of the Year award. He has already won two other Rookie of the Year awards in other open-wheel series, as he was the top rookie as well as the series runner-up in the South American Formula 3 series in 2007. The year before that he was Rookie of the Year and finished fifth in the Formula Renault series in Brazil. Last year he drove on many legendary European circuits while competing in the World Series by Renault. Prior to focusing on formula cars he honed his craft by recording many impressive records in karting.
One of the many things that impressed the executives of Andersen Racing about Romancini is how quickly he adapted to driving a Firestone Indy Lights car. He was fast the first time he was in one when he participated in the team's private test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. on Feb. 17. He took what he learned that day and methodically but quickly built on that when he tested there again on Feb. 20.
He was already comfortable in the car when he took his rookie oval test at Homestead on Feb. 23. He ended up second on the time charts that day, which was reserved solely for rookies, just three one-hundredths of a second off the top time. When the series veterans joined the rookies the following day at the series' open test he was a solid fifth all day long. His fastest lap around the 1.5-mile oval that day was done at an average speed of 187.136 miles per hour, not far off the day's top speed of 187.726 mph.
"I was extremely pleased with Mario's performance in the four days of testing on both road courses and ovals that he just completed with our team," said Andersen. "He learned oval driving techniques much faster than most drivers do, and in fact was the fastest driver out there when running without the benefit of a draft on the final open test day when all 18 drivers were testing. He is very smooth. He has excellent hand movements, which is very important on ovals where steering input affects car speed so much.
"Mario also demonstrated a focused, positive attitude, and he works very well with our entire crew," Andersen added. "We're looking forward to a great season with Mario driving the No. 5 car for RLR/Andersen Racing."
Andersen Racing is the official development team of Rahal Letterman Racing. Bobby Rahal has been keeping a close eye on how things have been going too.
"We are extremely pleased to see the progress that the RLR/Andersen Racing team has made in preparation for the 2009 season, and are excited to welcome Mario Romancini into what we expect will be a strong year for the team," Rahal said. "The recent Firestone Indy Lights testing was very positive for RLR/Andersen Racing, and we believe that the work done in the last few months will position the team to contend for victories and championships this season."
Andersen Racing offers one of the most comprehensive programs for future open-wheel stars available anywhere. In addition to Firestone Indy Lights, it fields entries in karting, Formula BMW Americas and the Star Mazda series as part of its ladder system.
Romancini said driving on an oval track for the first time was amazing.
"In the beginning it was a strange feeling, but after some runs I was used to the speed and to the different style of driving," he said. "We worked on the car and improved at the end of day. For the first time on an oval I think we did a fantastic job, as we were very quick! We were fast even running alone without the help of a draft, which showed us that we'll be competitive on road courses as well as ovals.
"I think we will be able to fight for wins this year," Romancini added. "The team did a great job. I feel comfortable with the car and with the guys, and now we'll just keep working so we can start the championship off on the right foot. I'm very happy to be running with RLR/Andersen Racing. I want to thank Dan and John Andersen and all the team members for trusting that I can do the job. I will do my best to fight for the title this year!"
One other driver will soon be as excited as Romancini, because there is still one seat available on RLR/Andersen's Firestone Indy Lights team for 2009. The Andersen brothers are continuing to weigh the attributes of the candidates vying to drive their second Firestone Indy Lights car, the No. 25, which J.R. Hildebrand drove to a fifth-place finish in the 2008 championship after winning the race at Kansas City, Kan.