CHAMPCAR/CART: A new Mercedes-Benz car for the new sheriff

MONTVALE, N.J. (April 3, 2000) -- It might be the most important driver-car combination in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series -- new Champ Car Chief Steward J. Kirk Russell and the 349-horsepower Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Safety Car. ...

MONTVALE, N.J. (April 3, 2000) -- It might be the most important driver-car combination in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series -- new Champ Car Chief Steward J. Kirk Russell and the 349-horsepower Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Safety Car. On the track before every practice and competition session, this duo must achieve the highest performance possible before any of the competitors can even turn a wheel. And just as a driver can't win without a highly tuned racing machine, Russell can't do his job alone. It takes an automobile packed with power, agility and sharp reflexes. The chief steward's primary on-track function is to inspect the racing surface before each session, checking for debris and overall track conditions. If there are incidents involving contact during a session, Russell speeds onto the track at the same time as the emergency crews. Then, another critical inspection occurs before activities can resume. Safety is serious business, requiring a level of passion and commitment that Russell delivers. "My most important responsibility is to ensure that each race is a safe event," said Russell, who joined CART at its inception in 1978 and was recently named chief steward following Wally Dallenbach's retirement. "The Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG is a vital tool to do the job right. It's a really quick, tractable car."

The second key function that the Wilsonborough, Pa., native uses the Safety Car for is introducing rookie drivers to each race circuit. The E55 AMG is perfectly suited to these rigorous on-track responsibilities thanks to innovative, race-derived suspension and braking technology from Mercedes-Benz and AMG, as well as a powerful 5.5-liter V8 engine that hustles the car from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Double-wishbone front suspension, digressive shocks and massive 13.2-inch disk brakes combine with anti-lift, anti-squat geometry for precise steering and sharp response in almost any situation. Wide tires and 18-inch AMG alloy wheels contribute to excellent road holding, even on slick surfaces.

"Wally took me around some of the circuits when I was a rookie two years ago," said Mo Nunn Racing/Hollywood/Mercedes driver Tony Kanaan. "The chief steward teaches you where the apexes are and where the bumps are. He tells you all the secrets so you can do well in the race. And the performance of the E55 when I drove it on the race track is what convinced me to buy a Mercedes for myself." Russell agrees that the Mercedes is an ideal partner since he has to drive at the limit on four different types of race tracks, from superspeedways and short ovals to permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, throughout the season. "It's a very well-balanced, stable automobile that is perfect for its on-track duties, especially with passengers," Russell said. "I've driven other cars on the race track, so I have a real appreciation for what this Mercedes can do." Russell, who also serves as CART's vice president of competition, is thrilled with his new responsibilities. "Being the chief steward is the high point of my career in motor sports," Russell said. "I am honored to take on this exciting challenge."

Mercedes-Benz, the official car of CART, supplies racing engines to four teams competing in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Tony Kanaan , Mo Nunn