CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Team Australia Saturday report

TEAM AUSTRALIA READY FOR DEBUT AFTER LONG BEACH QUALIYING The new Team Australia Champ Car World Series entry will begin its 2005 championship attack from position seven and 17 on the grid for the 31st running of the Long Beach Grand Prix in ...

TEAM AUSTRALIA READY FOR DEBUT AFTER LONG BEACH QUALIYING

The new Team Australia Champ Car World Series entry will begin its 2005 championship attack from position seven and 17 on the grid for the 31st running of the Long Beach Grand Prix in California tomorrow.

Alex Tagliani aboard the #15 Aussie Vineyards sponsored entry was seventh fastest in final qualifying today, stopping the clocks at 1 minute, 8.466 seconds for the 3.167km (1.968 mile) street circuit.

His Australian team-mate, ex-British Formula 3 race winner, Marcus Marshall, will start from position 17 in his Champ Car debut. Marshall improved his time today to 1:09.784 and moved up one position in the final 35 minute qualifying session.

Both Team Australia drivers qualified today on the Bridgestone Potenza "option" tyre -- a softer compound which proved to be around 3/10ths of a second quicker. Known as "red sets" for the red decal on the tyre sidewall, both drivers will have to use one set of the softer tire in tomorrow's 81 lap (or a maximum of 105 minutes) race.

2004 race winner Paul Tracy clinched the pole today with a time of 1:07.485 for Forsythe Racing.

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
"Qualifying seventh is a fantastic start for Team Australia. We obviously would have liked to be a little faster, but this program is very new and I am extremely enthusiastic about how everything has come together.

"I am confident we can improve our position in the race tomorrow because this team has a history of good strategies and the guys have been working hard on their pit stop practice.

"I had a little bit of understeer on the option tyre which hurt my lap time a little, but the biggest problem was trying to find a clear lap.

"Every time I was on a hot lap, I kept finding traffic. At one stage I got held up badly by Junquiera as he was coming out of the pits on sticker tyres -- that certainly didn't help.

"But overall the car is good and we have a long race tomorrow so I am sure if we are there at the finish we will be in great shape."

MARCUS MARSHALL -- CAR #5
"It was great to be closer to everybody today and I was able to have a real go on the faster "option" Bridgestone Potenzas. On my first set of tyres, my out lap was really strong and the second lap was going really well until I hit traffic right at the end of the lap. I was about 6 to 7/10ths up on my fastest before that happened.

"My second set of tyres didn't feel quite as strong, I think the track temperature rose a little, but I didn't have the same level of grip.

"I am very happy so far because I keep getting faster with every lap. Tomorrow will be a big day for me and I am really looking forward to it. I don't think I am going sleep at all tonight.

"I have been used to running at the front in my career, but I am in the big leagues now so it is time to start the learning experience."

DERRICK WALKER -- TEAM OWNER
"It all comes down to today's qualifying session -- that is where you really find out where you are. We still have a couple of tweaks to find a little more speed but overall when you look at where we started and how much progress we have made in the past couple of weeks, I think we have put on a bloody good show.

"Street courses by nature are fairly hard to overtake on, so the strategy we are looking at to try and overcome this is a different one than what we would do if we were on the front row. This a good race where you can play with your strategy and manage your fuel, but we will do what we have all weekend and work our way up to it.

"Every time Marcus has gone out he has got stronger and stronger and he has kept the car straight. Once he has a season under his belt he will be very strong. At the moment, we can tell him what it will be like, but only he can do it by experiencing it."

JOHN FISH -- TEAM OWNER
"We have had a highly successful weekend today, we have moved forward in every session, the cars are straight, the drivers confident -- I would give us 100 out of 100 so far.

"Marcus is getting more and more experience and his times keep coming down. The guy has enormous talent and he will get better with every lap of experience.

"In Alex we have a high quality driver. He is fast and a real team player - teamwork is what is going to bring us forward in this series and what will take Team Australia to the top."

-taus-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Marcus Marshall