CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Team Australia preview

Round 1 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will be held in Long Beach, California from today until Sunday April 10. Team Australia, sponsored by Aussie Vineyards, is a new Champ Car team venture through a ...

Round 1 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will be held in Long Beach, California from today until Sunday April 10.

Team Australia, sponsored by Aussie Vineyards, is a new Champ Car team venture through a partnership between Derrick Walker and Australian businessmen Craig Gore and John Fish.

Gold Coast 26-year-old Marcus Marshall will join Champ Car veteran Alex Tagliani from Canada as the drivers of the two green and gold Team Australia Lolas.

KEY TEAM FACTS:

History will be made at Long Beach with the debut of Team Australia and full-time Aussie driver Marcus Marshall. This heralds the start of the first-ever full-time campaign of an Australian team and driver in the Champ Car World Series.

Alex Tagliani has started in the first two rows in his last two Long Beach visits and has a pair of Toyota Atlantic Long Beach wins on his resume. He also comes off his best-ever Champ Car season, after a 2004 campaign that saw him score his first victory and finish a career-best seventh in the season standings.

Tagliani brings a close Australian tie to his new team, that being wife and former Bartercard Miss Indy Bronte Tagliani (nee Kok) who hails from down under.

Marcus Marshall is one of five rookies to line up on the starting grid for the opening round of the 2005 Champ Car World Series. Former Formula One driver Timo Glock will have his first race in a Champ car at Long Beach as will former FIA International F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim, and 2004 Toyota Atlantic stars Ronnie Bremer and Andrew Ranger.

MARCUS MARSHALL ON LONG BEACH:

"I am really looking forward to racing at my first event against some of the best drivers on the planet and I am ecstatic about racing at Long Beach, a fantastic circuit with a great history. I am already off to a good start with a solid teammate, Alex Tagliani," said Marshall.

"Now that we have the Lola chassis it has put a new drive behind the team to become Number 1 in the Champ Car series. So with their combined experience, and it being my rookie season, there is lot for me to draw on in our quest for success in the Champ Car World Series.

"I am going to treat it like any other race. I don't get nervous in the lead up to a race, sitting in the car waiting to go seems to be the time when a few jitters set in. But when it comes to a race weekend there are so many things to focus on and think about--things you need to get right like the driving, pit stops and making your car 100 percent--therefore you don't really think about it too much --about the awe of such an occasion.

"I have a job to do and I just have to get it done and then Sunday afternoon you get your result and then you go home and have a good think about what has happened there, reflect on it over the next few days.

"My first expectation of this weekend is simply just to finish and do my best with the experience I have got so far, and then see what comes from that. I honestly think that is all I can do at the moment and I believe that is all that is expected of me at the moment with the team and sponsors. They all know that this has come together fairly quickly and as a result we haven't had the perfect start in that we would have liked to do some more testing.

"But I believe that if I'm patient and everyone else is, things will happen and once I get more comfortable with more miles under my belt things progress the results will improve."

ALEX TAGLIANI ON LONG BEACH:

"After a long off-season I am very proud and excited to have joined Team Australia. In a short amount of time I have seen that it is a team of talented individuals, who are experienced in racing and motivated to succeed in this competitive sport," Tagliani said.

"After our recent successful test at Sebring it is apparent that we will be competitive this season, with a common team goal of working towards the championship. Although it is a young relationship between us, I believe that the high number of test days still available to the team after Long Beach will prove to be an added advantage to our program.

"As I already have a standing connection to Australia, it gives me refreshed enthusiasm to join this new and exciting enterprise, Team Australia."

"Not that I can win Long Beach, because there's a lot of preparation still to do. But I approach the season with a lot of pride thinking I can help the team go somewhere, and that's a good feeling to have," said Tagliani.

"The team is not used to the Lola but, in general, it's a good group of people. The crew seems to work very well together. They've been quick in their pit stops; I saw the numbers from last year and they are very good.

"Derrick deserved to have a good driver and to have a good sponsorship package. He has that now (and) I feel I am appreciated and I feel good. If I can bring some podiums to Derrick, I'll feel very good about it. So I approach my season in a straightforward way."

THE OTHER MAIN CONTENDERS AT LONG BEACH:

The 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will feature one of its strongest and most talented driver lineups in many years, and each of the drivers that comprise that lineup will be out to prove their worth as the 14-race season kicks off with Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

This year's campaign features four drivers that have captured Champ Car titles in their illustrious careers -- Sebastien Bourdais (Newman/Haas Racing), Paul Tracy (Forsythe Championship Racing), Cristiano da Matta (PKV Racing) and Jimmy Vasser (PKV Racing).

He who holds the crown has the mental edge and last year's race winner Paul Tracy is unlikely to be taking his foot from the gas in 2005. Tracy, from Canada, is two-time defending winner at Long Beach and has a total of four Long Beach victories on his resume.

In 2004, about the only thing Sebastien Bourdais didn't do is start the season with a win at Long Beach. After claiming the championship prize, the Vanderbilt Cup, with a season that included six race wins and seven poles, Bourdais is looking to move a few steps up on the Long Beach dais in 2005 after finishing third last season.

Last year's pole sitter also has a strong streak going. Diminutive Brazilian Bruno Junqueira, a fifth-year Champ Car pilot and teammate to Bourdais, brings a streak of six consecutive podium finishes to Long Beach. He is also aiming to progress further in the championship standings this year, after finishing second for the previous three years.

Possibly the most impressive streak of all is US veteran Jimmy Vasser's 198th consecutive Champ Car start, extending the longest such streak in series history. Vasser was a winner in Long Beach in 1996, the same year he went on to win the series title.

Cristiano da Matta makes his return to Champ Car racing after two seasons in Formula 1, and comes back to the Long Beach course that saw him start on the front row and lead 30 laps in 2002. This was the year da Matta went on to win on the Gold Coast and secure his first ever championship victory.

Reigning Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year A.J. Allmendinger from the US and the man who finished second in the rookie chase, Justin Wilson from the UK, are ready for their second season, both driving for the RuSPORT team.

One of the more intriguing lineups comes out of the Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing stable with Nelson Philippe and Andrew Ranger making up the youngest driver duo in Champ Car history. Philippe became the youngest driver ever to start a Champ Car event last year when he finished 13th in his Long Beach debut at 17, while Ranger will be the second-youngest driver ever when he takes the green flag at 18.

SCHEDULE - TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

Long Beach, California is currently running on Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) and is 17 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Friday, April 8, 2005
Practice 1: 10:15 AM (PDT), 3.15 AM Sat (EST)
Qualifying 1: 2:00 PM (PDT), 7.00 AM Sat (EST)

Saturday, April 9, 2005
Practice 2: 10:30 AM (PDT), 3.30 AM Sat (EST)
Qualifying 2: 2:00 PM (PDT), 7.00 AM Sun (EST)

Sunday, April 10, 2005
Race: 1:00 PM (PDT), 6.00 AM Mon (EST)

AUSTRALIAN TELECAST SCHEDULE

Network Ten - Monday April 11, 11.30pm

TELEVISION NEWS FEEDS

Champ Car will provide three, 30-minute satellite feeds this weekend from Long Beach. Information on all weekend satellite feeds follow:

Friday, 16:00 -- 16:30 PDT
Post qualifying feed to include on-track footage and driver interviews, as well as additional b-roll including the drivers visit to the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House.

AMC 9, Transponder K 08
D/L Frequency: 11860 Vertical

Saturday, 16:00 - 16:30 PDT
Final post qualifying feed to include on-track footage and driver interviews.

AMC 9, Transponder K 08
D/L Frequency: 11860 Vertical

Sunday, 16:30 -- 17:00 PDT
Highlights and interviews from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach including interviews with Canadian and Mexican drivers finishing in sixth position or better. Toyota Atlantic Championship highlights and winner interview will also be featured.

AMC 9, Transponder K 08
D/L Frequency: 11860 Vertical

In order to accommodate all stations interested in taking the weekend satellite feeds, video news releases and the satellite media tour will be available in ANALOG format.

-ta-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Nelson Philippe , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Conquest Racing