JUSTIN WILSON LEADS FINAL TEST SESSION OF CHAMP CAR PRESEASON FONTANA, Calif. (March 30, 2006) -- The teams and drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford have done all the testing they are going to do before...
JUSTIN WILSON LEADS FINAL TEST SESSION OF CHAMP CAR PRESEASON
FONTANA, Calif. (March 30, 2006) -- The teams and drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford have done all the testing they are going to do before the 2006 season opener, wrapping up a busy preseason with a second day of testing at California Speedway on Thursday.
Teams took to the 1.459-mile infield road course under sunny skies to make their final preparations leading into next weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and ended up chasing the same guy that led the pack the last time the checkered flag flew over a Champ Car event.
2005 season finale winner Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) hung up the best time of the two days of testing today, stopping the clocks at 52.090 seconds, besting the field by nearly a quarter of a second. Two-time defending champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing, who led Wednesday's testing, ended up second on the time sheets while his 2005 teammate Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carded the day's third-best time in his new PKV Racing machine.
"We are very happy with our progress over the two days and we put some good laps up, but we know that we still have some ground to cover," Servia admitted. "Today showed that we are catching up, but we know that we need to build some consistency before we start talking about wins. When we become a consistent threat for podiums, then we can start thinking about wins."
Bruno Junqueira (#2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is already thinking about wins, having completed a rigorous testing schedule in preparation for next weekend's event -- his first since the incident in last year's Indianapolis 500 that knocked him out of the balance of the Champ Car season. He was sixth-fastest today but was encouraged by the fact that he was less than a half-second off the pace set by RuSPORT's Wilson.
"I am where I expected to be physically and I think I am ready to give 100 percent next week without worry," Junqueira said. "I'm up to speed at every test. It's really very close at the top between six or seven guys so I'm excited. My goal is to give my best and to enjoy it. If I do that, I know I can win races."
As they were yesterday, A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) were fourth and fifth when the clocks stopped, although Tracy felt better about things today than he did after a frustrating Wednesday.
"This morning we ran some decent times but weren't able to improve in the afternoon," Tracy reported. "But I think we're where we need to be for Long Beach. We weren't as fast as we wanted to be here, but we weren't trying to win anything here either."
Dale Coyne Racing ran its final evaluation day as the long-time squad looks to finalize its driver lineup for the 2006 opener. Today, Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took over the 11 car that Nicky Pastorelli ran yesterday, while 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ran his second day with the team after officially signing his deal on Wednesday.
"I've been able to run quite well, especially on the first day and I don't think we're too far off for Long Beach," da Matta said. "We know what we have performance-wise and I think if we continue working on the organization, we have a chance to do well. I think we have a very good starting point and we are looking forward to the start of the season."
The teams and drivers will take the rest of the week to catch their collective breath before firing the engines for real next week, with the first practice and qualifying sessions of the 2006season taking place on the streets of Long Beach on Friday. The year's first race will take the green flag Sunday, April 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern, and can be seen live on NBC.