CHAMPCAR/CART: FedEx Championship Series happenings 2002-05-09

Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, May 9, 2002 With the CART FedEx Championship Series on a brief hiatus to make it easier for teams and drivers to compete in the Indianapolis 500, some of the competitors not participating at...

Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, May 9, 2002

With the CART FedEx Championship Series on a brief hiatus to make it easier for teams and drivers to compete in the Indianapolis 500, some of the competitors not participating at Indy are using the time off to prepare for the remaining 17 rounds of the 20-race CART championship.

Where Florida and Arizona were the popular testing locations during the winter, Wisconsin is the destination of choice for Champ Car activity this week.

The Milwaukee Mile played host to Newman/Haas Racing's Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone), Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal, and Patrick Racing rookie Townsend Bell (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota/Reynard Bridgestone), while owner/driver Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and his Fernandez Racing teammate Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) paid a visit to the picturesque Road America circuit up the road in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

With a brief time-out to participate in a media event at The Milwaukee Mile, da Matta, Jourdain, and Bell spent the early portion of the week lapping the legendary oval, with Jourdain boasting the quickest reported time at 22.3 seconds, some four tenths of a second quicker than Bell, and seven tenths faster than da Matta who ran an abbreviated schedule. No official times were recorded.

Jourdain currently stands second in the CART FedEx Championship Series point standings on the strength of top five finishes in each of the first three races of 2002, which is the best start of his seven-year Champ Car career. His performance in the test was particularly impressive considering the track conditions he faced when he tested alone on Monday.

"It was hard," said Jourdain on Tuesday afternoon. "There was no rubber on the track. I think ours was the first car to run here in a long time. Plus, with no other times to compare with, it would have been easy to get lost on the setup. So we just focused on our testing program without worrying too much about the lap times. Today was much cooler, but the sun came out in the afternoon and we were able to get a lot accomplished. I think it's good that we have a little more downforce this year. It's not that big a difference when you're running alone, but I think the big difference will come when you're in traffic during the race. I think we'll be able to pass much easier than last year."

Being a rookie, Bell wouldn't know about how Champ Cars behaved on The Milwaukee Mile last year. Despite the fact that he came within a few car lengths of lapping the Indy Lights field twice at Milwaukee last year, he found he had to take a slightly different approach to the track in a Champ Car.

"The racing line is a little different in Champ Cars than Indy Lights," said Bell. "With the Lights cars, we were allowed to run all the downforce we could get with the road-course wings. That's not the case with Champ Cars, so it requires a different approach to the corners."

Da Matta and Newman/Haas put in a few laps on Tuesday but managed to save a test day by staying under the "50-mile limit." Nevertheless, da Matta and his engineers ended the day believing they had found a promising direction to pursue later in the week.

"We made some progress on our short-oval setup from our first 2002 oval test in Homestead in March, but we found out in Japan that we had more work to do," said da Matta. "Of the four tracks CART competes on, our short-oval setup is our weakest and we know we need to improve in this area in order to fight for the championship. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate (Wednesday) and we can continue to make some improvements to the balance of our car.

While Team Rahal and Patrick Racing accomplished what they wanted and headed for home on Tuesday, da Matta would not have the track to himself, as Mario Dominguez (#16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Herdez Competition and Fernandez Racing owner/driver Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) with teammate Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) were on hand in Milwaukee. Testing was rained out on Wednesday and a limited number of laps were turned Thursday as a result of more inclement weather.

Prior to venturing down to The Milwaukee Mile, Nakano and Fernandez had a productive outing at Road America. The pair combined to put 600 miles on their machines, and no times were released.

"The car was getting better toward the end of the day," said Nakano. "It's still not perfect, but it was a good test and we learned a lot. I still have a lot of understeer in the car, but we found a way to go with the setup to be quicker for this track."

"I love this place and it's a pleasure to drive here," added Fernandez. "We had a good test and ran through a lot of things. Of course, since we were the only ones here, you don't have anyone to compare with. The conditions were very, very cold. It was in the low 50s (Fahrenheit). In all, it was a good test and the track was in good condition. We went through all of the things on our list, including pit stops and things like that. We feel more confident toward the next race. Both cars ran pretty much without problems. Times are irrelevant because it is hard to compare, but I have had very good results and very good cars here and this car feels pretty good. Hopefully, we will have another productive two days in Milwaukee. These are basically our last tests of the year."

Testing is expected to continue next week, with Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course among the venues where Champ Car activity is planned.

* FORMULA THREE TURNS FIRST OVAL LAPS AT EUROSPEEDWAY LAUSITZ

Teams of the International German Formula 3 performed initial oval tests at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz May 6-7, the site of this September's second annual CART FedEx Championship Series German 500. The Opel BSR Team and the Swiss Racing Team tested drivers and cars under high-speed conditions for the first time on the 2-mile superspeedway. Former Formula One pilot and Champ Car winner Roberto Moreno was on hand and gave theoretical instructions to young Formula 3 drivers Frank Diefenbacher (Germany) from the BSR Team and Marc Benz (Switzerland), Norbert Siedler (Austria), as well as Gilles Tinguely (Switzerland) from the Swiss Racing Team. Moreno competed at EuroSpeedway in the CART FedEx Championship Series' first visit to Germany last season. CART officials also travelled to the EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the test. Gary Barnard, CART senior manager of competition, Lee Dykstra, CART director of technology and competition, and Chris Kneifel, CART steward assisted the teams with their long-standing experience. The CART officials additionally used the opportunity to take a look at the young up-and-coming Formula Three pilots.

* DA MATTA TO TEST FORMULA ONE CAR

CART FedEx Championship Series driver Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola Bridgestone) is expecting to get his first taste of a Formula One machine during the down time before the Miller Lite 250 at The Milwaukee Mile on June 2 (CBS-TV, 12:30 p.m. ET). The Brazilian is slated to test the Toyota-powered F1 machine next week. "This is my fourth season of working with Toyota and we have a very good relationship," said da Matta. "I am thankful that they are giving me the opportunity to test their F-1 car and I am also thankful that Newman/Haas Racing is allowing me to accomplish one of my goals. I've driven almost every kind of open-wheel race car and testing an F-1 car is a great opportunity for me. There is a break in the schedule this month and we are only running two tests so the timing is good. I'm looking forward to the experience."

Walker Racing driver Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) and former CART FedEx Championship Series competitor Helio Castroneves are also expected to test at some point for Toyota.

* YAHOO! NAMED MAZDA RACEWAY'S OFFICIAL INTERNET SERVICES PARTNER

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Yahoo! have signed a new two-year agreement that makes the Internet company the Official Internet Services Partner for the track - site of the CART FedEx Championship Series Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300 June 9th. As part of the agreement, Yahoo! will receive prominent trackside signage and world-class hospitality in exchange for various forms of advertising, marketing and on-line sweepstakes throughout their network. With this partnership, MRLS will continue to hold a firm foothold in the ever-evolving world of e-commerce. "It is because of Yahoo!'s world-wide role as an Internet leader that we feel confident in once again having them as our partner," says Gill Campbell, General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "The agreement allows us to access their front-running position in e-commerce, while giving the company exposure to race fans and television viewers who attend and watch our world-class events." The partnership with Yahoo! was consummated by MGO Marketing Group of Lafayette, Calif. MGO is Mazda Raceway's exclusive sponsorship marketing agency.

* ON THE MOVE

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. is in the final stages of the relocation process which will move the open-wheel sanctioning body from its home in Troy, Mich., to Indianapolis later this month.

CART will cease all business activity in Michigan - CART's home for the past 23 years - at day's end on Friday, May 17th, and reopen its doors Monday, May 20th in Indianapolis. The relocation positions CART in close proximity to a number of sponsors, manufacturers, suppliers and teams participating in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Effective May 20th, CART will begin operation from Indianapolis' northwest side at the following address:

5350 Lakeview Parkway South Drive
Building 36
Inner Park/Park 100
Indianapolis, IN 48009 USA

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Kneifel , Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , Frank Diefenbacher , Norbert Siedler , Marc Benz , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain