CHAMP CAR STARS READY TO ROCK N' ROLL IN CLEVELAND Round five of the Champ Car World Series' "Battle for the Vanderbilt Cup" takes place at Burke Lakefront Airport this weekend, in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of...
CHAMP CAR STARS READY TO ROCK N' ROLL IN CLEVELAND
Round five of the Champ Car World Series' "Battle for the Vanderbilt Cup" takes place at Burke Lakefront Airport this weekend, in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and this year's contestants are hoping that the standing start into the famous first-turn is more of a smooth success than a smash hit at the Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank.
After a near perfect standing-start in Portland, things might get a little more rock and roll in Cleveland where flying starts have been known to see their share of "hits" as everyone tries to negotiate the wide open first turn. Although last season everyone steered clean into the first corner of the 2.106-mile temporary road course, it was the way leading to turn-two where things got out of control. Notably for triple Vanderbilt Cup winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who was literally knocked out of the race when Paul Tracy's (#3Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) car flew over his and rolled over the Frenchman's helmet.
This year, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) driver will be looking to put that memory behind him while searching for his fourth consecutive win in '07. With a resounding come back to score NHLR's 100th victory, after falling down to fourth at the start in Round Four at Portland International Raceway, Bourdais continues to sit atop the charts for a second consecutive race with an 11 point lead over sophomore Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).
After a difficult Round Three, Power regained form in Portland, where he moved up from his seventh place on the grid to finish fourth allowing him to maintain his second spot in the standings ahead of best new solo driver Robert Doornbos (#14 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The Dutchman continues to make a name for himself in the Champ Car World Series with three top-three finishes in four races, however, the 25 year-old has yet to reach the top step of the podium.
Despite four top-ten finishes this year -- the only driver to accomplish this feat -- Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) is still searching for his first podium finish this season. With strong qualifying performances and good race results, the Canadian remains for a fourth consecutive race in the top-four on the charts. History says that he is in for another top-ten result in Cleveland, having finished tenth or better in his last six visits.
RSPORTS driver Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will want to carry on the same tune he sang two weeks ago in Portland, where he grabbed his first pole and podium finish of the season, in order the forget the 2006 edition of the Cleveland Grand Prix where he saw his race end early when a suspension failure sent him into the concrete wall. The Brit currently sits fifth in the Championship standings behind his RSPORTS teammate.
Oriol Servia (#7 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) crossed the finish line in a disappointing 11th in Portland after a strong start to his season with a couple of top-four results. The Catalonian now hopes he can repeat his performance from last year in Cleveland where he climbed onto the third step of the podium to get things back on track with his Forsythe Championship Racing Team (FCR).
FCR's other driver, Paul Tracy who returned to competition in Portland after sitting out two races will be looking to make his way to the front and back into the heat of the battle for the championship before it gets too late. With a podium finish at the season-opener in Las Vegas, Tracy barely made it into the top-ten two weeks ago, but you can never count out Champ Car's version of a Rock and Roll bad boy to leave his mark on the championship.
While the "Battle for Vanderbilt Cup" continues to get more interesting as the season moves along, the race for the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year title is just as fierce as a herd of young stars fight for the title. Doornbos may have a 28 point lead over his closest rival, but sitting second through fourth in the new solo driver category are NHLR's Graham Rahal (#2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who swept the Atlantic double header in Cleveland last season, PKV Racing's Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay by Touch-Megaspiera Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Team Australia's Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The three rookies, who also round out the top-ten drivers on the Champ Car charts, are separated by a mere six points.
Other drivers looking to make their way into the top-ten of the "Battle for the Vanderbilt Cup" are Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull-Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) of PKV Racing whose best result this year is a seventh place in Long Beach, Dan Clarke (#4 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who put in his best performance of the season in Portland, Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and the best new duo or group nominees Pacific Coast Motorsports drivers Ryan Dalziel (#28 PCM Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Alex Figge (#29 Molecule Labs Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).
The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank action gets underway Friday with a first practice session at 12:15 PM which will be followed by the first round of qualifying at 4:00 PM. The grid for Sunday's race will be set on Saturday at 2:00 PM during the final round of qualifying while the yellow lights will go out for Round Five of the 2007 Champ Car World Series season at 1:00 PM on Sunday, June 24th. The race will be broadcast live on CBS Sports starting at 1:00 PM (all times eastern).