HOMESTEAD, Fla. (January 7, 2000) â€“ Max Papis showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a blue streak for his test for the March 24-26 Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota. No, the popular Italian-born Miami resident wasnâ€™t using ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (January 7, 2000) – Max Papis showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a blue streak for his test for the March 24-26 Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota.
No, the popular Italian-born Miami resident wasn’t using off-color language. Papis dyed part of his hair to match the color of his Miller Lite Ford/Reynard.
"That’s me," Papis said with a smile.
Papis had reason to smile. He finished fifth in the 1999 CART FedEx championship standings, closing the year with a pair of runner-up finishes.
"Me and the team are getting closer together," said the 30-year-old veteran of Formula One and sports car competition. "The first six months of last year were spent learning each other. That won’t be necessary this year, so we’re going to start from the right pace right away. We have all the right tools in our hands to be very successful."
While Bobby Rahal’s team returns with Ford-powered Reynards, Papis explained there will be major improvements for himself and his new teammate, 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Breck.
"Definitely, Ford has done a tremendous improvement in the engine (the Ford Cosworth XF)," Papis explained. "The engine is a totally different concept, and the car is an evolution as a Reynard. We’ve got a completely revolutionary engine, and it seems to be running real well. We’re very happy with what Ford has done."
Papis captured the attention of American sport car fans with a sensational final-hour charge to second place in the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona. He won three races for Ferrari in IMSA competition that season, but by the end of the year he made his CART debut. After three seasons with Arciero-Wells, he moved to Team Rahal in 1999, replacing the popular team owner and three-time champion behind the wheel. Papis scored 11 top-five finishes, scoring points in nine of the final 11 races. He lost a heartbreaker at Michigan, running out of fuel on the final lap after dominating the race. Papis led CART in laps, miles and races completed, and trailed only champion Juan Montoya in laps led.
"The test is going well," Papis said. "Our goal is sitting on the pole and leaving everyone else behind. We need to get the car sorted out, and win when it counts. Winning the test doesn’t matter. It feels like we are heading in the right direction. We are working towards the March 26 day."
Joining Papis in Thursday’s private testing were Paul Tracy of Team Kool Green, Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing, and Player’s Forsythe Racing’s Patrick Carpentier. Fernandez had the fastest unofficial lap of the session, circling the 1.5-mile oval in 26.99 seconds (200.074 mph). He was followed by Tracy (27.03/199.778 mph), Papis (27.09/199.336 mph), and Carpentier (27.25/198.165 mph).
Ticket orders are now being accepted for the 2000 Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota, by calling (305) 230-RACE. For additional information, visit the Speedway’s official web site, www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.