CHAMPCAR/CART: Corby: Fernandez Racing preview

Fernandez and Nakano hope to build on recent results at Rockingham. Adrian Fernandez heads to Rockingham with momentum on his side. After struggling with a mid-season string of DNF's (did not finish), Fernandez found what he was looking for in...

Fernandez and Nakano hope to build on recent results at Rockingham.

Adrian Fernandez heads to Rockingham with momentum on his side. After struggling with a mid-season string of DNF's (did not finish), Fernandez found what he was looking for in Denver, the most recent round of the CART FedEx Series Championship - results. Fernandez snared the provisional pole on Friday, garnering a front-row starting position and a fourth-place finish. He returns to England hoping that the monkey is off his back, and that the end to his 2002 season will be as fruitful as the start, which saw Fernandez lay claim to two pole positions and a podium finish in the first four events.

Shinji Nakano's outlook is unfazed despite a bittersweet weekend in Denver. Nakano, who claimed his career-best Champ Car starting position of third, saw his string of eight points-paying finishes [dating back to Portland on June 16] come to end at Denver, after a gearbox problem ended his day while running in third. Nakano's confidence remains high, and strong performances on the ovals this season - including a fifth-place finish at the last oval race in Chicago - add to his momentum.

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

"I am looking forward to Rockingham. The fans there are great and really know their racing. I had a good car last year, but unfortunately our day ended with a mechanical problem during the race. Obviously we hope to finish the job this year -- and hopefully on the podium. As a team, we were strong in Denver all weekend and that was really a turning point for us. We need to carry this through the rest of the season. I have spent a lot of time in England over the years and it will be nice to be back. Several members of Fernández Racing have ties to England and I think everyone is looking forward to the trip. Bringing a trophy home would be a great souvenir."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his second appearance at Rockingham and his 159th Champ Car career start-- started 17th at Rockingham last year [starting grid was set by championship points], but retired from the race on Lap 93 with a mechanical problem-- has 61 career oval starts to his credit, finishing half in the top 10-- best oval start this season was pole position at Milwaukee-- best oval finish this season was second at Milwaukee-- four of his seven Champ Car career wins were on ovals - Rio (2000), Japan (1998/1999) and Fontana (1999)--only owner/driver in current Champ Car field--currently ranked sixth among active drivers in career wins with seven-- is ranked 10th in CART all-time career starts-- currently sits 14th in the championship with 53 points.

Shinji Nakano, Driver -- #52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone:

"We have been away from the oval tracks for a long time and basically we have to get used to driving on the ovals again. As usual, the most important thing on this type of track is to have a good car in order to be quick because the car really drives you on the ovals. Rockingham is a high-speed track and we are running flat-out. I think we have a good setup for the ovals and I'm looking forward to next weekend. With a two-day event, we don't have much time to work on setting up the car. If we can have a good baseline car at the start, we can do well for sure. I used to live in England and I know the country very well. It will be great to be back."

FAST FACTS: Will be making his second appearance at Rockingham and 52nd career Champ Car start -- started 25th at Rockingham last year [starting grid was set by championship points], and finished17th after battling understeer throughout the race-- has 18 career oval starts to his credit-- best oval start this season was sixth at Milwaukee-- best oval finish this season was fifth at Chicago-- is in his third season of Champ Car competition, and second year with Fernandez Racing-- currently sits 15th in the championship with 43 points.

Fernandez Racing Team News

Track Talk
A new aerodynamic package implemented by CART will make its debut at the Rockingham 500. According to Chris Finch, assistant race engineer for Fernandez: "Rockingham is a high-speed, quad oval and passing is extremely difficult because the cars are constantly turning. The new aero package will slow the cars and make passing easier, hopefully allowing cars to run two abreast through the turns. I think the fans will see an exciting race."

The new aero package calls for a larger wicker [Gurney flap - a vertical strip on the trailing edge of the rear wing mainplane that affects the level of downforce], increased from one-half inch to one-and-a-half inches, and an additional three-quarter inch of wicker to the rear-wing endplates.

England a Homecoming of Sorts for Fernandez and Nakano
Like many Champ Car drivers, Fernandez and Nakano looked to Europe in the formative stages of their racing careers. For Fernandez, his three years in England were spent struggling to find opportunities: "Returning to Rockingham brings back a lot of memories from the days when I had nothing, but these are good memories. I met a lot of great people. I was racing for John Village, who will be with us this weekend, back in 1988 and '89. I lived in a small town between Sheffield and Chesterfield. Later I moved to Gravesend, which is about 20 minutes from Brands Hatch. I worked as an instructor and as a mechanic to help pay the bills. It was a time in my life that really helped prepare me for the future. I always enjoy coming back to England."

Nakano also spent three years in England, leaving Japan at the age of 19 to compete in the British Vauxhall/Lotus and GM Lotus Euroseries: "I lived in Oxford and Milton Keynes when I was racing in England. [Formula One star David Coulthard was his roommate in 1991.] I have very good memories from there. I won at Silverstone in Opel-Lotus in 1990, which was my first win in Europe."

Two Fernandez Racing Team Members Hail from England
Mike Sales, chief mechanic on the #51 car piloted by Fernandez, was born in London and grew up in Kent. Sales, whose motorsports career spans 29 years, caught the racing bug at an early age, following a trip with his parents to the famed Brands Hatch circuit. He began his career as a mechanic in the European Formula 5000 Series and moved to the McLaren F1 team a few years later, working as a mechanic with drivers James Hunt, Jochen Mass, Patrick Tambay and John Watson. Prior to joining Fernandez Racing this season, Sales spent the past seven years at Patrick Racing, as a chief mechanic prior to being promoted to technical coordinator.

Tony Leith, lead mechanic for Fernandez, was born in Chalfont-St. Giles and spent his early years in the Oxford/Reading areas. Leith has been involved in motorsports for 18 years. He "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 Motorsport teams, Leith has worked with numerous drivers over the course of his career including Mario Andretti, David Coulthard, Allan McNish, Damon Hill, Max Papis and Martin Brundle. He joined Fernandez Racing last fall.

Fernandez Racing Team Stats
Since entering the CART FedEx Championship Series in 2001, Fernandez Racing, headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., has claimed two pole positions and three podiums. The team has posted seven top-five finishes and 18 top-10 finishes in 33 races contested to date. Fernandez, Anderson and Don Halliday, the team's technical director and race engineer for Fernandez, are the team owners.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers David Coulthard , Allan McNish , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Shinji Nakano , Martin Brundle , Mario Andretti , Patrick Tambay , Damon Hill , John Watson , Jochen Mass , James Hunt