CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford Racing Long Beach preview

HEADING FOR HOLLYWOOD Following a one-month break, Ford-Cosworth returns to action for the second race of the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Despite just two finishers in the top 12 at Monterrey, ...

Following a one-month break, Ford-Cosworth returns to action for the second race of the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Despite just two finishers in the top 12 at Monterrey, Ford-Cosworth was competitive throughout the weekend with three drivers qualifying in the top 10, led by Kenny Brack, who scored his first career CART pole position.

It has been 15 years since Ford-Cosworth enjoyed a victory in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The last time Ford-Cosworth powered a driver to victory lane at Long Beach was in 1986 when Michael Andretti drove from seventh on the starting grid to win his first career CART event. In addition, the last time a Ford sat on the pole at Long Beach was in 1998 when Bryan Herta set the fastest qualifying time on the then-1.574-mile course.

Although there are several drivers capable of winning a race in the FedEx Championship Series, Kenny Brack, Bryan Herta, Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servia each stand a strong chance of tasting champagne this weekend. Here's a quick look at each of these drivers and why they should be considered favorites: Kenny Brack
Brack is coming off a strong performance in the first race of the season in Monterrey, Mexico, which saw him capture his first CART pole position en route to a fifth-place finish in the race. Brack has now posted top-five results in five of the last seven races on either road or temporary street courses, and has nine top-10 finishes on road and/or street tracks in his Champ Car career. In his first appearance at Long Beach last season, Brack qualified seventh and finished the race 17th. Bryan Herta
Recognized as one of the premier road racers in CART, Herta has been at or near his best when competing at Long Beach. Following finishes of 26th and 12th in his first two CART appearances at Long Beach in 1995 and '96, Herta has scored a pole position ('98) and four straight top-six results since. Herta posted back-to-back third-place finishes in 1998 and '99 before his fifth-place result last year as a substitute driver with Walker Racing for the injured Shinji Nakano. In his Champ Car career, all of Herta's pole positions (seven), wins (two) and eight of his nine podium finishes have come on either natural road or temporary street courses. Alex Tagliani
Tagliani showed signs of brilliance last year in his first CART season by leading several races, starting from the pole in Brazil and posting seven top-10 finishes. Now with 21 CART races under his belt, Tagliani should be considered a strong contender to win races in 2001. Making his first Champ Car start at Long Beach a year ago, Tagliani qualified 11th and managed a fourth-place finish
the highest among the nine Ford-powered contenders that weekend. Oriol Servia
Despite driving for a new team in 2001, Servia and Sigma Autosport demonstrated their speed in Monterrey, qualifying eighth for the first race of the season. Servia posted 10 top-10 finishes as a rookie in 2000, highlighted by his first Champ Car podium at Detroit (third) and a fifth-place result at Gateway. Last year in his first CART race at Long Beach, Servia turned in an impressive performance by working through the field from his 21st starting position to finish 6th.

Although he will be making just his second career Champ Car start at Long Beach this weekend, driver Alex Tagliani has performed well on the tight street circuit in the past. Not only did he finish a season-best fourth at Long Beach as a rookie last season, Tagliani has also won two races there while competing in the Atlantic series. After winning his first career Atlantic race in 1997 at Long Beach, Tagliani followed that up with another victory in the event during the 1999 season.

Ford Racing Technology has developed a new refueling system that will be implemented for the 2001 CART season. Called the Single-Point Refueling System, Ford used it during last year's season finale at the California Speedway when Casey Mears drove to a fourth-place finish in his first Champ Car start. Traditionally, two crewmembers are responsible for refueling a Champ Car - one person actually putting fuel into the car, while another vents the air out. Ford saw the need to make the pit lane a safer place, and one way was to eliminate the need for an extra crewmember to go over the pit wall. "We took it upon ourselves to come up with a ventilation system that works with the re-fueling probe, to make it a single point of re-fueling," says Jay O'Connell, Ford Racing's CART program manager. "One person can now put in the fuel while the air is automatically drawn out. We tested it in a third Team Rahal car at California, a car added just for that race to test the system, and were happy with what we saw."

Cosworth Racing has won 197 races since entering Champ Car competition in 1976 ... Bryan Herta is Ford-Cosworth's most experienced CART driver this season with 101 career Champ Car starts ... dating back to the 1999 season, Ford-Cosworth has had at least one driver finish on the podium in 21 of the last 25 CART events ... Kenny Brack's pole position at Monterrey was the first on a road or street course for Ford-Cosworth since July 2, 2000 at Cleveland (Roberto Moreno).

-Ford Racing


WHEN: April 8, 2001 TRACK LAYOUT: 1.968-mile temporary street course RACE DISTANCE: 82 laps; 161.376 miles TELEVISION COVERAGE (ET): ABC; 4:00 PM (live) DEFENDING CHAMPION: Paul Tracy DEFENDING POLESITTER: Gil de Ferran 2001 DRIVER POINTS (1 race): Cristiano da Matta (21), Gil de Ferran (16), Paul Tracy (14), Michael Andretti (12), Kenny Brack (11) 2001 MANUFACTURER POINTS (1 race): Toyota (21), Honda (16), Ford-Cosworth (11), Phoenix (0)

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Casey Mears , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta