CHAMPCAR/CART: Marshall's learning curve

"Get to the front and improve from there" is the best advice 26-year-old Australian Marcus Marshall ever got in his racing career. The Gold Coast native has been racing since the late 1990s in sedans, Porsche Cup competition and karts but really...

"Get to the front and improve from there" is the best advice 26-year-old Australian Marcus Marshall ever got in his racing career.

The Gold Coast native has been racing since the late 1990s in sedans, Porsche Cup competition and karts but really found his niche in open wheel competition.

After working his way through the racing ladder with Formula Ford and Formula Renault contests, Marshall received his best opportunity to grab the attention of Champ Car World Series team owners and potential sponsors during last year's Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise.

Competing in three Australian Formula 3 support races for the Champ cars, he won them all.

It was enough to send Aussie Vineyards in search of the proper team placement for Marshall during this year's 14-race Champ Car season. Marcus landed with one of the best independent team owners in the business, Derrick Walker, who has taken it upon himself to see that Marshall has all the tools he needs to succeed.

Vying with as many as six other candidates for Roshfrans Rookie of the Year, Marshall is assigned the #5 Aussie Vineyards Lola/Ford- Cosworth/Bridgestone machine for the season. With two races complete, it hasn't all gone his way, with a 14th place finish at Long Beach and 16th in Monterrey.

This weekend marks Marshall's first competition on an oval and he's looking forward to it.

After testing early in May with the team's elder Reynard chassis to get some miles under his belt, "It will be nice to head to a circuit where I actually have driven a Champ Car before," Marshall laughed. "Although this will be my first actual race on an oval, we tested at Milwaukee a month ago and it was a tremendous learning experience."

Team owner Walker stood above the grandstands spotting for his newest charge and for teammate Alex Tagliani, switching his dialog between the two. Not one to sugarcoat anything Walker noted, "Obviously he hasn't done as well as he wanted so far, but given Marcus' prior experience and the competitiveness of the series, we're pleased with his progress.

"We like his approach to it and his knowledge of how the car works. The speed will come with time," Walker said. "It's asking a lot to do better than he has done because Marcus hasn't been continually in open wheel racing. All things considered, he's done okay."

Marshall and the balance of the Champ Car grid will get only two hours of practice on Friday, then will qualify in the afternoon and race at noon on Saturday. "Two hours go by fairly quickly," Walker noted, "and by the end of the second hour we want to be in qualifying mode, so he won't be doing anything with full tanks at that point."

The program to run as Team Australia with Marshall and Tagliani came together fairly late so the rookie never had a true opportunity to test. Even so, Walker thinks Marshall has "progressed well, but he clearly has a long way to go."

Marcus was taken with the historic Milwaukee Mile at first glance. "The track really blew me away. There's such a short amount of time between corners that it's more mental than physical."

Unable to do any long runs during the two-day test, Marshall thinks long runs could be an issue for him. "Friday we'll be trying long runs so that I can get a feel for how the car reacts with different fuel loads.

"Plus, we'll be going back with the Lola (after testing with a Reynard). Now, with at least some knowledge of the place, we should be able to get more speed. My goals this weekend are simply to finish the race, stay out of trouble and get as much experience as possible. That can only be achieved if I keep my backside in the seat!"

Having a spotter is something the Australian never experienced before the Champ Car test in May. "I learned to listen and relax, because someone is looking out for me up there. That way I could concentrate on my lines around the track."

Marshall has moved from his native Antipodes to the very different atmosphere of Indianapolis, in order to be close to Team Australia. "I had a very different view of the United States before I arrived here," he said. "I didn't know what to think, as most of the movies and TV shows I'd seen made Americans out to be a rather violent people."

When he arrived, Marshall found that folks in the USA aren't terribly different from those back home. He's settled into his new Carmel, IN home and is working with Jim Leo's PitFit Training to keep in shape. "I used to run, swim and bike at home but it's not as easy to do here," with climate changes a regular occurrence.

While Marcus Marshall knows he's got a lot to learn this weekend at on all the new Champ Car tracks where he's competing this season, he's enjoyed it thus far.

"I really liked Monterrey and wish I'd been able to get another three or four tenths for Long Beach qualifying. I can't wait to get on the track tomorrow in traffic and see what Milwaukee is really like" with the swirl of traffic that's the hallmark of this short, flat oval.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Marcus Marshall