BJORN REVIEWS HIS FIRST 90 DAYS OF CHAMP CAR He's one of two Champ Car Rookies who have led a race this year. Not only did he lead, but Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim nearly won round two of the 2005 Champ Car World Series, when he defended his...
BJORN REVIEWS HIS FIRST 90 DAYS OF CHAMP CAR
He's one of two Champ Car Rookies who have led a race this year. Not only did he lead, but Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim nearly won round two of the 2005 Champ Car World Series, when he defended his position for 18 laps against some of the most experienced and accomplished veterans in the Champ Car World Series, while existing on mere fumes in his fuel tank and rubber that should have been retired 30 laps earlier. From Monterrey, he headed to Milwaukee, where, for the first time in his successful, yet diverse career, he would spend the entire weekend, turning left only, certainly something new for the studious Swede. He welcomed the challenge and wasted no time "figuring out" the tricky Milwaukee Mile, he ran in the top-ten all weekend and qualified eighth. On to the road courses of Portland International Raceway and Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, where Bjorn and his #4 HVM crew learned from the practice and qualifying sessions to produce a "race" car that was as fast as the leaders on both occasions, yet hindered because of an electronic issue in Portland and a first turn incident in Cleveland. Optimistically, the HVM team and Bjorn Wirdheim look forward to the swing of Canadian events, and the remainder of the 2005 Champ Car season.
At the age of 17 Bjorn Wirdheim was the youngest driver to ever win the Swedish Formula Ford championship. Two years with Formula Palmer Audi in England followed, then the tough competition of the German F3 championship. After great success there, he was recruited by Team Arden to compete in the International F3000 championship. There he was the 2002 "Rookie of the Year" and became the first Swede to claim the Formula 3000 championship when he dominated in 2003 with three victories and five pole positions. In 2004 Bjorn became the third driver in Jaguar's Formula One team. HVM signed Bjorn in April for the 2005 Champ Car season. He made his American debut in Long Beach.
What are your impressions of Champ Car thus far?
BW:I've got a really good impression of Champ Car, there is a friendly atmosphere in the paddock and all of the drivers are easy to get along with. I think the venues that we've been to so far have all been very nice. The racing is excellent and the field is very competitive.
How has your transition gone from being an F1 test driver (Jaguar) back to competing, racing and qualifying week in and week out?
BW:It's different but I think I got back into the racing pretty quickly again. I like working with the team of people that I have around me; HVM has a good spirit. Last year, all of that time in the car as a test driver was good experience for me, but I was pretty miserable not being able to race and this year, I've definitely realized what I missed out on.
Which event did you enjoy the most?
BW:From an event standpoint, I thought Long Beach was good, being the season opener there was a lot going on, and the atmosphere was terrific. Although I have heard so much about Toronto, I am really looking forward to it and of course Australia as well.
Which track did enjoy the most?
BW:I really enjoyed Milwaukee, it was my first time on an oval and it was more fun that I expected. It was just a different kind of experience; I think in Europe, where I come from, most people don't understand how difficult it actually is to race on an oval.
What have been your biggest challenges or frustrations?
BW:My starting position in the last two races, I am disappointed that we haven't been able to qualify better. In the actual race, we've had the pace to fight with the top six drivers, but we haven't been able to get up there. In Portland I had some electronic issues with the power to pass, which ruined my race when I dropped to last during the first three laps. Cleveland was ruined by another driver being over ambitious at the start. The positive is that we are making progress, we've been a little unlucky, but I am sure things will come together in the near future.
In your opinion, which was your best Champ Car race?
BW:Monterrey was pretty good keeping Junqueira behind me for the lead whilst having to save fuel.
Which race do you look forward to the most now that you have competed on each of Champ Car's three disciplines, the road course, the street circuit and the oval?
BW:I would probably say Las Vegas, but then again I understand that it is not very similar to Milwaukee. I look forward to the races that are new for the season, which means everybody starts on a clean sheet of paper.
What are your expectations for the remainder of the season?
BW:To consistently start in the top ten and challenge for top five finishes.
You recently moved from the UK to Indianapolis, how is the transition going?
BW:I like it here in Indianapolis. The people in the team are taking good care of me and I'm having fun. There are a couple of other drivers around here as well, so there is always someone willing to go out and play a game of golf!
How do you plan to spend your first 4th of July in the United States?
BW:I will spend it with my teammates, I am sure they will explain the traditions to me and I will experience an American barbeque! I am really looking forward to it!