CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Team Australia Friday report

TEAM AUSTRALIA MAKE WAVES IN LONG BEACH DEBUT Team Australia has made an impressive start to its debut race in the 2005 Champ Car World Series on the streets of Long Beach today with Alex Tagliani putting the ...

TEAM AUSTRALIA MAKE WAVES IN LONG BEACH DEBUT

Team Australia has made an impressive start to its debut race in the 2005 Champ Car World Series on the streets of Long Beach today with Alex Tagliani putting the #15 Aussie Vineyards Lola in 5th position in opening qualifying.

A winner in Champ Cars at Road America last year, Tagliani set a fastest time of 1 minute, 9.056 seconds -- his first qualifying session driving in the green and gold colours of Australia.

The Las Vegas-based Canadian's wife Bronte, is actually an Australian whom he met at the Lexmark Indy 300 on the Gold Coast.

Australian rookie Marcus Marshall completed his first day in the Champ Car World Series, qualifying 18th fastest after getting caught in the traffic towards the end of the opening qualifying session.

Both Tagliani and Marshall will get the opportunity to improve tomorrow in the second qualifying session scheduled for 2.00pm (Local time). Both drivers have two sets of the softer Bridgestone Potenza "option" tire which is easily identified by its red sidewall.

Newman Haas Racing Bruno Junqueira set the fastest time in today's qualifying and "locked in" a front row start for Sunday's race with a time of 1:08.342.

Team Australia is a new Champ Car entry created for 2005 by veteran team owner Derrick Walker and Australian businessmen Craig Gore and John Fish.

The team will contest the championship with major sponsorship from Aussie Vineyards, a new Queensland company established by Gore and Fish to export Australian wine into the US market.

ALEX TAGLIANI -- CAR #15

"I am pretty excited about this first day for Team Australia. The entire team has done so well considering this all came together so late.

"To go out and be fifth fastest in the first qualifying session is great because all our sponsors are here and there is a huge contingent of people from Australia -- it is a good first day.

"We actually had a lot more in the car but on one of my quick laps I got blocked, so instead of doing a 1:08.6 lap we ended up with a 1:09.0. We were trying to get the tire pressure exactly where we wanted it, but with all the red flags, I ended up with one less lap than I needed.

"That hurt us today but we definitely have a shot at the top three tomorrow. We have two sets of the faster red lettered Bridgestone Potenza tires which are about 3/10ths of a second quicker.

"The secret to improving our time is timing the run on new tires. The tires are at their peak on lap four and today I caught traffic on that lap.

"Considering we have only done one day of testing, the result today for Team Australia is fantastic."

MARCUS MARSHALL -- CAR #5

"It was just one of those sessions where the red flags didn't help us. You only get about 15 laps to go at it in 45 minutes which can be tough with the traffic.

"The car wasn't quite right on my first run and it was also my first real go on sticker tires. I was hoping to go a lot quicker on the second set and I ended up getting hit from behind and I hit somebody else -- I had a couple of little moments which meant I didn't get a lap in at the end like a lot of other guys did.

"But overall I am happy to get my first day under my belt, keep the car in one piece and gain more experience.

"Tomorrow everybody else will be in the same situation with the faster red set Bridgestone Potenzas available.

"I will be out to continue the learning process. I really had no expectations prior to the weekend and I am out to get lots of laps under my belt.

"In the early part of the season I suppose I am aiming for the top ten, but it will be a step by step process."

CRAIG GORE -- TEAM OWNER

"This is a very proud day for everybody at Team Australia to see the cars on the track for the first time. To see the green and gold on the car, the trucks, the uniforms, everything looks fantastic and we have a had a great start to the weekend.

"Our plan this weekend is for the team to get as many laps under their belt as possible and bring both cars to the finish.

"This is a step learning curve for Team Australia, but our plan is to gradually get more and more competitive and be in a position where we can challenge for victory on the Gold Coast at the end of the season. That would be the ultimate for Derrick, John (Fish) and myself."

DERRICK WALKER -- TEAM OWNER

"I am very pleased with the result for Team Australia on our first day. Alex getting P5 is fantastic and Marcus was unlucky at the end to get caught in traffic. If it wasn't for that he would have been up a couple of notches, but for his first day in the car and first qualifying session, I am very pleased.

"Our team is beginning to understand the Lola after years of running the Reynard. Running the new car is quite different because each make of car has its own characteristics so it is about understanding how it all works."

"The Lola has a lot more options, so you have to be careful you don't get yourself lost -- with the Reynard there wasn't as many things you could adjust."

-ta-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Marcus Marshall