CART's Champ Car World Series officially kicked off its 2003 racing season in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The week Spring Training started with a reception to introduce the 2003 Champ Car driver lineup and to welcome St. Pete as the newest...
CART's Champ Car World Series officially kicked off its 2003 racing season in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The week Spring Training started with a reception to introduce the 2003 Champ Car driver lineup and to welcome St. Pete as the newest race on the schedule.
The following morning, the Newman/Haas team, with their lead driver, Bruno Junqueira, took center stage. First, the team presented their 2003 sponsorship package, unveiling the logos of PacificCare Health Systems on Junqueira's Lola-Ford. In addition, PacificCare was announced as the Official Health Care provider for CART employees and has signed on as an official sponsor at three stops on the Champ Car schedule: Long Beach, Milwaukee, and Denver.
St. Petersburg got its Champ Car wakeup call next, as Junqueira took his newly-decaled car for a few demonstration laps of the new temporary circuit that will host the opening race of the Champ Car season in a few weeks. He was very pleased with the circuit, saying: "It was quite smooth and very wide, especially the airport part."
While none of the other Champ Car drivers got a chance to try the new circuit in their race cars, a few took some "pace car hot laps" and all were happy with the work that was done to prepare the streets for a race circuit. As the drivers spoke to the media in an afternoon session, they expressed obvious excitement over the upcoming race and the warm reception in the city.
A common question for the experienced drivers on the panel was whether they were concerned about the large group of rookies competing in Champ Cars this season. Jimmy Vasser had perhaps the best answer, saying: "my comfort level with the rookies coming in is very high," and citing the strong backgrounds in international racing in the group of youngsters.
Two drivers, veteran Roberto Moreno with Herdez Motorsports and Roberto Gonzalez with Dale Coyne Racing, were introduced as test drivers, but both are expected to sign contracts with their respective teams to run the full season. Those signings bring the Champ Car grid to eighteen cars for 2003.
The Cart Champ Car World Series leaves St. Pete and hits the track at nearby Sebring International Raceway for three days of practice, media conferences and announcements, February 4-6. Motorsport.com has a full staff on site at Sebring. Visit the Motorsport.com photos channel for the latest photos of the cars and drivers at Spring Training.