Former Indy Lights champion Eric Bachelart has long been known for his prowess in picking new, youthful talent to drive for his Mi-Jack/Conquest racing teams, whether in the Lights category, IRL or in the Champ Car World Series. The 2005 campaign...
Former Indy Lights champion Eric Bachelart has long been known for his prowess in picking new, youthful talent to drive for his Mi-Jack/Conquest racing teams, whether in the Lights category, IRL or in the Champ Car World Series. The 2005 campaign will be no different as Bachelart moves the bar ever younger,
Bachelart's Champ Car team will be the sole squad to utilize two drivers under the age of 20 years, as the Belgian has tabbed Andrew Ranger to partner Nelson Philippe for the full season. Ranger, the French-Canadian sensation from Montreal was Rookie of the Year in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2004, recording six podium results in 12 starts.
Just 18, Andrew Ranger will drive a #27 Mi-Jack/Kodak Lola/Ford- Cosworth/Bridgestone entry in all 14 contests on the 2005 docket, with sponsorship for the three Canadian races at Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal coming from Ranger's longtime supporter Procter & Gamble's laundry detergent Tide.
Ranger tested for Bachelart at California Speedway a couple of weeks ago and the Belgian's keen eye saw a star in the making. "Our Fontana test was quite successful," Bachelart stated. "I like Andrew's approach, his maturity and his speed. I realize," he admitted," that we have a very young lineup this year and it's quite exciting for us as a team."
In 2004 Mi-Jack/Conquest employed Justin Wilson as their lead driver, with Philippe joining the squad midway through the Champ Car season. "Hopefully we have future Champ Car stars here. We will prepare them both to achieve success and post results."
Bachelart acknowledged his two young pilots are working well together. "They interact quite a bit. Both are very talented and know one another from racing in go-karts. I think Nelson and Andrew can challenge each other and fight with everyone else on the track to gain results.
"They are both good talents and they both speak French, too," Bachelart laughed. I believe these two drivers have the talent to be future stars in the Champ Car World Series."
Bachelart spent the winter upgrading his small team - which he intends to keep small ("I like it that way," he said) - by adding engineering talent to an already cohesive group. He added a thrice-weekly fitness program for his crew and integrated two-a-day pit stop practices into their regimen.
Among others, he added the estimable talents of Bruce Ashmore as the team's overall technical director and hired Dave Faustino to engineer Ranger's #27 car, a job Faustino did in 2004 when his charge was racing the smaller, lighter and less powerful Atlantic cars.
Coming up quickly through the racing ranks Ranger is "very excited to be here. I think 2005 will be a very good year. I think I can handle the pressure of racing the bigger Champ cars. Pressure is something I like. I need to push a lot and work hard with the team," Ranger acknowledged. "There is a lot of pressure to be fast and to get into the top ten.
"This is what I've always wanted to do and it's a dream come true. I don't want to push too much pressure on myself to perform this season; although I know some of the tracks I will be learning what to do with the car [all over again]. Of course," the teenager continued, "I hope to win the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year title."
He found more similarities than differences between the Champ Car Lola and the Toyota Atlantic Swift he drove in 2004. Ranger loves the fact that the Champ Car "brakes so late and carries so much speed in the corners. Dave knows these cars very well after working with Patrick Carpentier a few years ago; I think we'll have a smooth transition."
The Mi-Jack/Conquest team will be taking part in open testing on the short course at Sebring on Wednesday and Thursday of this week together with most of their peers. This, Bachelart stated, will give them an opportunity to see what the competition looks like, as the Champ Car teams firm up their driving lineups and continue to test in preparation for the season starting 31st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
While Bachelart tested quite a few veteran drivers over the winter, he thought he hired "what we feel is the best talent in Andrew Ranger. I had to make quick decisions after the California test and I know it won't be easy to have these two very young drivers," Bachelart said of the talented duo.
Eric Bachelart and partner Mi-Jack Industries are celebrating a lucky 13th year together as they attack the 2005 Champ Car World Series calendar. "We have spent so much time upgrading our team to move higher and I think it can pay off." In addition to the personnel additions, the team has a new shock program in place.
For his part, Ranger is looking forward to a return to Long Beach on April 8-10, site of a debut that yielded second step on the Atlantic podium in 2004. "I'm pretty comfortable on that track. It was new to me last year and I like the circuit; it's pretty fun to race."
The Champ Car season kicks off with the 31st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, marking the series' 22nd visit to America's seminal street race.