TOP TEN FINISH FOR PIZZONIA IN HIS CHAMP CAR DEBUT IN LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, California (April 9, 2006) - Rocketsports Racing's driver of the ...
TOP TEN FINISH FOR PIZZONIA IN HIS CHAMP CAR DEBUT IN LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, California (April 9, 2006) - Rocketsports Racing's driver of the #8 Rotax/Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Antonio Pizzonia, made his Champ Car debut on the streets of Long Beach today when he took the green flag for the season opener of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford schedule.
Starting on the grid in the 11th spot fared well for the 25-year-old driver, as a four-car pile up occurred in turn one at the start of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. That moved Pizzonia up to the seventh spot and charging hard. By lap eleven, Pizzonia was closing in on the sixth spot trailing Cristiano da Matta by less than a second. A yellow flag came out on lap 13, and the minute the pits opened, Pizzonia was directed in by the team for his first Champ Car pit stop in a race setting. Making a good clean stop, his Rocketsports team did not let him down and were able to get him out of the pits ahead of da Matta.
On lap 36, Pizzonia moved up into the top five and was the top rookie running at the time. He would find himself behind da Matta again after the second pit window of stops occurred and would challenge to maintain his status on-track. Heading into turn one, he didn't quite make it around da Matta who was exiting from the pits, and stalled the car. No contact was made and Champ Car Safety got him back on his way, but he did go a lap down after parking it in turn one.
After another yellow flag, the "Jungle Boy" had a close opportunity to gaining back his lap as he sat behind Sebastien Bourdais who was the leader, and eventually race winner. On the restart, he just did not get enough momentum goin g to get around Bourdais, and would race the rest of the afternoon using the laps as practice.
Despite the roller coaster afternoon for the rookie, Pizzonia did salvage a top ten finish. Finishing in the tenth spot, Pizzonia crossed the line as the fourth quickest rookie. He recorded his best lap of the race on lap 63 posting a time of 1:09.139 (85.302 mph). That lap time was the sixth fastest time recorded throughout the duration of the event. Pizzonia earned his first Champ Car championship points, collecting 11 points.
Antonio Pizzonia, Driver of the #8 Rotax/Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone
"Well I am pretty disappointed. "Things were going well, when I was challenging (Cristiano) da Matta, I down shifted the gears too fast, the rear wheels locked and I stalled. It was unfortunate because the team did such a great job to get me into the fifth spot and we were running well out there this afternoon. The #8 Rotax/Rocketsports car was good today. When I was running behind Tagliani and the other leaders, I felt that it was as fast, if not faster, than the times they were running. However, it was hard to tell because I was trying to save fuel, so I was not pushing the car as hard as it could have potentially went. Overall, this was a good weekend; I learned a lot and had some fun out there doing so. The Rocketsports team did a great job for me; they helped me out all weekend and did a great job during the race."
Paul Gentilozzi, Rocketsports Racing Team Owner
"We are very proud of Antonio this weekend. He did not let us down. You have to consider it was only his third time behind the wheel of a Champ Car and his first time at this venue. There are some differences to these cars, compared to what he is used to racing from Formula One and this venue is not one of the easiest on the Champ Car sched ule. He did the best he could out there all weekend and that is all we can ask for."