CHAMPCAR/CART: Junqueira tired of waiting

CHAMPCAR/CART: Junqueira tired of waiting

Being the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford "bridesmaid" for the past two years hasn't been the best scenario for Bruno Junqueira. Bruno Junqueira. Photo by Tom Haapanen. The 28-year-old Brazilian, who...

Being the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford "bridesmaid" for the past two years hasn't been the best scenario for Bruno Junqueira.

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
The 28-year-old Brazilian, who claimed the 2000 FIA Formula 3000 Championship is motivated to turn P2 into an end-of-season hoist of the Vanderbilt Cup in 2004, returning for a second year with Newman/Haas Racing in a #6 PacifiCare Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone contender.

"I always look forward," Junqueira emphasized. "I have a championship to win this year." In three seasons of Champ Car racing, two with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and last year with NHR, Junqueira has amassed five victories, seven pole positions and 16 appearances on podium, nothing to sneeze at. Junqueira also won MBNA pole position at the 86th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

But he wants more. Race car drivers always do. "I felt good about our [recent] test and I feel good about myself," he insisted. "The advantage of working with the same team, the same crew is really good. We have pretty much the same mechanics at Newman/Haas, my engineer is the same and we work really well together.

"We'll be working very hard to get the championship this year," Junqueira advised. "They know me well and that's a big advantage. It's one big family at Newman/Haas Racing."

Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by W. Robert Phelps, III.
The first part of last year Junqueira and his team had to get to know one another. He came to NHR as a proven winner, yet was replacing 2002 champion Cristiano da Matta, a man beloved by his crew. It takes time, as he found out.

"The first part of last season we had to figure out each other and the car. The car was much better, much faster later in the year," Junqueira said. "The team needed to set it up for my driving style and my lap times got better at every track" as the 2003 season progressed.

It's been a long off-season for Junqueira, who resides in the Miami area and is disappointed the Champ Car World Series won't be in his adopted home state this year. "St. Petersburg was a pretty good race and I hope we'll come back in 2005. And I want to race at home in Miami," he complained.

To keep in shape, Junqueira does a lot of cycling with other racing buddies who live in the area. "I've been cycling a lot like last year. I always have stayed in pretty good shape and right now, I think I'm in the best shape of my life," he challenged.

Junky will find more familiar faces this season with more drivers coming to the Champ Car World Series from FIA Formula 3000. "It's one of the best series and, since there are not too many available seats in Formula One, there is a high level of interest from F3000 drivers in Champ Car. Guys can do well in Champ Car, but it is a big challenge."

During his three-day test in Florida, owner Paul Newman came to visit the crew and lend some enthusiasm for the task at hand in this year's tightly contested competition. "I'm happy to have a team owner so interested" in his assets, Junqueira noted. While he is surprised some teams and drivers left the Champ Car World Series, Junky is happy to see others come along to replace them.

This season, "The cars, the engines, the tires are all the same, but the push-to-pass will be really good for the races," Junky said. It's evident he's excited to be going racing again and the Brazilian will be putting his right foot down to gain possession of that elusive Vanderbilt Cup by the end of the year.

Now it's waiting time with just a week to go before practice, qualifying and racing begin on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, as the Champ cars take on the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Soon the waiting will be done and Bruno Junqueira, for one, is ready to go racing once more.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Paul Newman , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing