CHAMPCAR/CART: Brands Hatch: Fernandez Racing preview

England venue a trip down memory lane for Fernandez. Former Brands Hatch Instructor hopes school days pay off. The historic Brands Hatch circuit, site of the inaugural London Champ Car Trophy, holds special memories for Adrian Fernandez. CART's...

England venue a trip down memory lane for Fernandez. Former Brands Hatch Instructor hopes school days pay off.

The historic Brands Hatch circuit, site of the inaugural London Champ Car Trophy, holds special memories for Adrian Fernandez. CART's only competing owner/driver has come full circle since his days of working as an instructor to make ends meet at the legendary track -- host to Round Four of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Like many drivers in the Champ Car field, Fernandez looked to Europe during his formative years to further his racing career. After leaving his native Mexico at the age of 22, he spent three character-building years in England struggling to find opportunities. It was a point in his life that Fernandez says helped prepare him for the future.

While logging a lot of miles at Brands Hatch in his instructor's role, Fernandez also competed at the circuit in the 1987 Formula Ford Festival [see note below] as well as the 1988 and 1989 RAC British Formula Ford 1600 Championship, finishing fourth in the 1989 title chase.

Fernandez enters the race weekend on the heels of his best start to a season since forming his own team in partnership with Tom Anderson in the fall of 2000. He is currently ranked fourth in the Champ Car World Series standings, 10 points out of second place, after capturing his 20th career podium with a runner-up finish in Long Beach on April 13.

Adrian Fernandez , Owner/Driver -- #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

"I am excited to go back to Brands Hatch because it is a track that I have taught so many people on as an instructor. This is basically where my dream started in terms of my international career and now, going back as an owner and a driver, is going to be very special. I love the track and I think it is going to be an exciting race that I am really looking forward to. It is also going to be a very physical race. The most exciting corner will be Paddock [Hill Bend -- Turn One, which is a fast corner on the crest of a hill]. Obviously I have never taken it in these cars so it is going to be quite a new experience."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his 164th Champ Car career start-- recorded two top-five finishes in three rounds of 2003 competition to date -- second at Long Beach and fourth in Monterrey, Mexico-- has qualified seventh or better in each race this year, claiming his best starting position of third at St. Petersburg-- has finished half (51%) of his 49 Champ Car career road course starts in the top 10-- enters his 11th season of Champ Car competition with seven career wins and three pole positions-- only one of his seven career wins was on a road course -- Mid-Ohio in 1998-- thirty-seven years old from Mexico City-- formed Fernandez Racing in the fall of 2000 with Tom Anderson-- only competing owner/driver in the series-- is the third most-winning driver in the current Champ Car field-- ranked 11th in CART all-time career starts-- has 20 Champ Car career podiums to his credit-- last win was at Australia in 2000-- last pole position was at Milwaukee in 2002-- looking for his first win as an owner/driver-- the last win by an owner/driver was in 1992 when Bobby Rahal won at Nazareth.

Fernandez Disqualified in Brands Hatch Racing Debut
Adrian Fernandez made quite a splash in his first professional outing at Brands Hatch. After securing a last-minute ride to compete in the 1987 Formula Ford Festival, Fernandez impressed many by qualifying his tobacco-sponsored Formula Ford on pole position for his heat race. The team was aware of a tobacco-advertising ban during televised sporting events and planned to change the livery to a striped design for the final day of the event, which was to be broadcast. When Fernandez assumed his front-row starting position for the heat race on Saturday however, the team was caught off guard when they were told on the grid that the logos had to be removed. With three minutes to go before the start, attempts were made to cover the signage but time ran out. Fernandez, worried that logos remained visible with one minute to go, was assured he could still compete. Three laps into the race and while leading, Fernandez was given the black flag and disqualified.

Brands Hatch Sparked Racing Career of Chief Mechanic Mike Sales
A veteran of 30 years in the sport, London-born Mike Sales grew up in Kent, and caught the racing bug at an early age following a trip with his parents to Brands Hatch in the late '60s at the age of 12: "They ended up buying me a season ticket and would drop me off and pick me up. I was there every weekend."

Six years later, Sales returned to Brands Hatch in a different role -- as a mechanic with the Barclays International Team. He experienced his first taste of racing success at Brands that weekend when driver Guy Edwards won the European Formula 5000 round. Sales enjoyed his second trip to the Brands Hatch Winner's Circle while working as a mechanic with the McLaren Formula One team when James Hunt scored a win at the circuit in 1977.

England Race Weekend a Homecoming for Fernandez Racing Team Members
David Watson, race engineer for Fernandez, was born in Littlehampton, on the south coast of England. Watson began his 16-year racing career with March Engineering as an aerodynamicist and design engineer, laying the groundwork for his future involvement with the Lotus, Arrows and Pacific Grand Prix Formula One teams. He entered the Champ Car ranks in 1995 as a race engineer with Lola Cars Ltd., and has engineered several drivers, including Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia and Max Papis, during his tenure on the CART circuit. Watson holds a Master of Science Degree in Aerodynamics from the Cranfield College of Aeronautics and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Kingston Polytechnic.

Lead Mechanic Tony Leith was born in Chalfont-St. Giles and spent his early years in the Oxford/Reading area. Leith "lucked into racing" during his college years when a Formula Ford team was starting up in the town of Wallingford, where he resided. He was able to go racing and finish his studies at the same time [Leith attended Oxford and holds a Mechanical Engineering Degree]. As lead mechanic for the Vortex F3000, Arrows Grand Prix and Panoz Motorsports teams, Leith has worked with numerous drivers over the course of his 20-year career including Mario Andretti, David Coulthard, Allan McNish, Damon Hill, Max Papis and Martin Brundle.

Born in Bathgate, Scotland, Lead Gearbox Technician Mick Austin's 20-year motorsports career spans a variety of formulae including British/European Rallycross, World Championship Rally and Formula One in addition to Champ Cars. As a former mechanic with the McLaren F1 team, Austin has worked with legendary names in the sport including Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger. A racer himself who built and raced off-road cars -- "generally, if we were not broken down, we were upside down" -- Austin also spent six years as a specialized tank mechanic in a British Army Apprenticeship.

New Rules Come Into to Play for Brands Hatch Race Weekend
The Champ Car World Series has implemented two competition rule changes for Brands Hatch. Qualifying, traditionally two timed sessions on road/street circuits featuring all drivers on track, will now consist of single car qualifying on both Saturday and Sunday with each driver permitted six laps [four of which are timed] to produce their fastest time. The second rule change affects the mandatory pit stop interval that required a driver to make a pit stop every set number of laps. For the Brands Hatch race weekend, this has been changed to two mandatory green flag stops at the driver and team's discretion.

"Both changes are good calls and it is going to make the whole show even more exciting," said Fernandez. "I like that you can pit whenever you want -- it is going to be like in the old days but without the fuel-saving situation. And qualifying is going to be very good. We are not going to have any traffic to contend with and they are giving us six laps, which is plenty."

Track Talk
Fernandez Racing Race Engineer Chris Finch estimates top speeds of 175 mph and minimum speeds in the 52-mph range as drivers shift 14 times per lap around the Brands Hatch road course. Says Finch: "Brands Hatch is considered a road circuit but it is short when compared to other natural terrain road circuits. The Milwaukee oval is a four-turn, one-mile oval while Brands packs seven corners in just over a mile. Estimated laps times will be in the mid-thirties [seconds]. Turn One [Paddock Hill Bend] is the best passing area, but that is dependent on how well the car is working through the last corner. The short track could make passing difficult, so good pit strategy will be the key. Due to the narrowness of pit lane, the standard pit procedures have changed. There are no prescribed pit windows, but CART is mandating two green flag stops before the white flag is given. This will make everyone rethink their race strategy because pit stops under yellow do not count."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers David Coulthard , Allan McNish , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Gerhard Berger , Bobby Rahal , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Alain Prost , Damon Hill , Guy Edwards , Tom Anderson , James Hunt