Less than two weeks away from the season opener in Las Vegas, Paul Stoddart's Minardi Team USA officially named its drivers today. It was always likely that Robert Doornbos, who has tested all winter for the team and raced for Minardi in Formula...
Less than two weeks away from the season opener in Las Vegas, Paul Stoddart's Minardi Team USA officially named its drivers today. It was always likely that Robert Doornbos, who has tested all winter for the team and raced for Minardi in Formula One in 2005, would be confirmed and it was just a matter of when. Not as likely was the second seat, where Briton Dan Clarke has been announced for his second season in the team.
Clarke was not among the ones originally in contention for the ride as it was assumed Nelson Philippe would have returned and Doornbos would have been in the second car. Philippe no longer wants to fund his own drive, particularly based on his breakout 2006 season, and is in search of other opportunities for this season and down the road.
Despite no testing in the new Panoz DP01 chassis, Clarke is upbeat about returning to the series after a long wait. "I've been waiting and hoping for this news for a few weeks now, and I'm relieved it has finally been confirmed," said Clarke, whose rookie season featured a pole at the challenging Road America circuit and his first podium at the now-defunct race in Denver.
"Although I haven't been in the new car yet, I've kept in close contact with the team and attended the tests, while also concentrating on maintaining peak fitness, so I'm as prepared as I can be at this stage without having driven the DP01," he continued. "I would like to thank Paul (Stoddart) and Keith (Wiggins), for putting their faith in me, and I look forward to building on my debut season and bringing the team strong results."
Doornbos will split his 2007 as Champ Car race driver and test driver for Red Bull Racing, where he drove three Grands Prix last season, in F1. "I'm really pleased to be racing with Paul Stoddart, Keith Wiggins and Minardi Team USA," Doornbos commented. "It's obviously a different Minardi team from the one I last drove for, but there is still the same, close-knit, family feeling about it that I like.
Doornbos has tested extensively for the team, at all three official pre- season tests in Sebring, Houston and Laguna Seca, as well as sampling one of Forsythe Racing's old Lola chassis late last season.
The team also has Zsolt Baumgartner, another ex-Minardi F1 driver and something of a cult hero on the Internet, as an official test and reserve driver. That signing was confirmed at Monterey, but Baumgartner struggled to get up to speed in testing and had a heavy crash in one of the team's cars. His role will likely consist of driving the two-seater cars that have been tried, tested and accepted in F1 but yet to be raced in Champ Car.