Next weekend marks the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which begins the 26th year of competition for Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Despite an off-season of intrigue, questions of survival and ...
Next weekend marks the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which begins the 26th year of competition for Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Despite an off-season of intrigue, questions of survival and other attendant problems, the season will get underway on the seminal 1.968-mile street course. There will be sufficient cars and there will be tight competition.
Carpentier wasn't terribly sure how the season would pan out for him after discovering there wasn't funding for a third car on the team early in March. "It's been an interesting off-season for sure, but I feel pretty good about it. We've had a few days of testing, my team is intact from mechanics to engineers and we're ready to put up a very good effort.
"Being in the team, [being] out, and then in again was difficult," Carpentier acknowledged, "but when Jerry [Forsythe] decided to put his own money in out of his own pocket, I felt pretty confident," the French Canadian emphasized. Forsythe is fielding three cars for Tracy, Carpentier and for sophomore Rodolfo Lavin of Mexico, who brings Corona beer funding to the party.
"It's been hectic at the shop for the guys to put three cars together," Carpentier admitted. He and Paul will have to share a spare car until the team is able to put together another Lola for back-up duties, likely before Monterrey in May.
Carpentier was left in the cold because Forsythe was unable to immediately find funding for a third car. "I'm disappointed nobody from Canada stepped up" when cigarette maker Player's was unable to continue due to legislative action. "Player's paved the way for a company to come in and take over," but no firms in Canada have shown interest in promoting either Carpentier or Tracy yet.
"It was very important for me to race this year and I didn't want to do maybe just a couple of races with Jerry," Carpentier explained. "In those eventful few weeks we tried to get a sponsor and I was pretty dismayed, but then Jerry called and said 'I want you back with all of your guys'" and things turned around for him.
Carpentier spent the long off-season preparing for the 2004 Champ Car campaign. "I'm in really good shape for driving. In fact I'm in the best shape of my life. With all of those months of waiting, after three days testing I had no aches anywhere, not even my neck. I'm pretty happy about that."
Living in Las Vegas (as does Tracy), Patrick spent the winter months doing a lot more cardio work than he had in the past. When visiting family in Quebec province, he did quite a bit of snowmobiling; back in Nevada there was swimming and plenty of cycling in the nearby hills. "I was Paul this morning as I was coming down the hills. He was heading up for his ride."
Relieved not to be farmed out to another team for the 2004 season, Carpentier found his #7 Lola "competitive out of the box" during last week's three-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I am so motivated for this season because I know the car, the guys, the data and how to work with Paul. We've got good equipment and, well, it's so good to be back in the car.
"I'm more motivated than last year and I will work very hard to win the championship," Carpentier emphasized. "There are 8-10 guys who can win this year and I think this will be an extremely competitive season. For me," he said, "the motivation is right there. Every lap will be very important this year.
"Paul is the guy to beat for the championship, and he's going to be tough every time. He is very aggressive and very fast, but so are a lot of guys. Bruno [Junqueira], Sebastien [Bourdais], Tag [Alex Tagliani], Michel [Jourdain Jr.] will all be tough. It will be a fierce battle and one of the most exciting series ever this year," Carpentier insisted.
In testing he had opportunities to try out Champ Car's new push-to-pass button technology, which enables drivers to use 60 seconds worth of extra power over an entire race distance to enable clean, safe overtaking maneuvers. "The revs jump up; you get a few hundred revs more. You have to be aligned and have to have a shot at it [the pass] in order to make it work. I think it'll work better later in the races," Carpentier said.
Carpentier is ready for the challenges a new season brings and intends to fulfill the promise of being competitive right from the get-go. "With three cars we'll have a lot of information and Rodolfo was very fast on the final day of testing. It's fantastic to be with the best team."