Character Building Champ Car Experience for Andreas Wirth in Mexico City Mexico City, Mexico -- November 14, 2006 -- Coming off a fairly impressive debut in Australia last month, Andreas Wirth was eager to learn more and clock as much time as ...
Character Building Champ Car Experience for Andreas Wirth in Mexico City
Mexico City, Mexico -- November 14, 2006 -- Coming off a fairly impressive debut in Australia last month, Andreas Wirth was eager to learn more and clock as much time as possible behind the wheel of a Champ Car. Unfortunately for Wirth, his run on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course in Mexico City didn't go quite according to plan.
Jumping into the #19 Dale Coyne/Sonny's Bar-B-Q entry in Mexico City this past Friday marked the beginning of Wirth's second career run in the Champ Car World Series. Naturally, Andreas was keen to put in a strong run, hoping to raise a few eyebrows in the paddock as his dream for 2007 lies with a full time Champ Car ride. Day one brought with it the challenges of finding the perfect set up in a relatively unfamiliar car, on a race course that was all-new to the young German. Sadly, under-steer seemed to be the nemesis on Friday and Wirth was penalized in morning practice for bringing out the red flag when he miscued at the chicane in Turn 15. From there however, things went from bad to worse when adjustments for under-steer were ineffective. Despite a less than spectacular result for the day, and an 18th place provisional qualifying effort, Wirth can be pleased to have led morning practice if only for a few fleeting moments. Discussing the events of the day, Wirth remarked, "We struggled with our set up today. We had too much under-steer in our first practice session, and unfortunately the changes we made didn't affect the car the way we had planned. We didn't run well today, but we'll try to sort things out for tomorrow."
By Saturday, the team seemed to have put their troubles behind them as Wirth consistently bettered his lap times, climbing to twelfth fastest in the final practice session as he clocked his fastest time of the weekend at 1: 28.540 -- just a little over two seconds behind the leader. Alas, the final round of qualifying didn't go as well, leaving Andreas to start in 18th place for the Champ Car season finale. Andreas explained, "We're still dealing with under-steer issues and couple of other little problems, but we'll work through it. It's my first time here, and it's a long, tough track to learn, but I was definitely hoping for a better result today."
A rain dampened track greeted the drivers in Mexico City on race morning, providing a new experience for Andreas to embrace. Not wanting to jeopardize his second start in Champ Car, Wirth cautiously turned a few laps in morning warm-up, adding to his repertoire of racing knowledge and experience. By the time the cars took to the grid, sunshine filled the skies for the fourteenth and final round of 2006 Champ Car World Series competition. While the race itself was generally uneventful, it began with a bang as four cars made contact before ever crossing the start/finish line, bringing out what would be the only yellow flag of the event. As Andreas described it, "The start of the race was just a bit crazy!" however, he did well to avoid the flying shrapnel from Katherine Legge's collision, and ultimately drove through unscathed.
As the race wore on and pit strategies came into play, Wirth found himself running as high as tenth place. Unfortunately for Wirth, his first scheduled stop brought with it a little too much excitement. Exiting the pits, Wirth made contact with the Aussie Vineyards entry of Will Power who dove into his pit box in front of the #19 car. Fortunately, Wirth's quick reflexes helped him to avoid serious damage through evasive manoeuvres. Sadly though, the pit lane contact was enough to put Wirth off his game, leaving him to run the majority of the race with pain in his shoulder. Wirth describes the encounter, "When we hit I could feel it in my shoulder right away -- like a pinched nerve or something. From that point on I had a lot of pain, which made it very tough to drive in the longer fast corners."
Just two laps later, Andreas faced yet another challenge -- driving a Champ Car in the rain under race conditions. While Wirth seemed to run well in the rain after changing to rain tires, he had this to say of his first experience, "I guess it wasn't too bad -- I didn't crash! It's really hard to say how well I did though. I think I put in a few good laps, but it was really hard to be consistent since we still had a few minor issues with the car."
Rounding out what proved to be a very educational Champ Car race for the young up-and-comer, a lapped Wirth was forced to serve a drive-thru penalty for failing to yield to cars that were a lap ahead. Fortunately for Wirth, the penalty did not seriously affect his result. Obviously a little frustrated by the penalty, Andreas was eager to provide us with a little insight on the situation, "My radio died five laps into the race, and I had no contact with my team. Then, when it started to rain I had a bit of trouble with visibility in my mirrors, and I couldn't see what cars were behind me. That's why I got the black flag -- my team wasn't able to give me the heads up about what was going on."
While Wirth fought hard to remain on the lead lap, his efforts were futile, and he crossed the finish line in 15 th place and one lap down. Noteworthy however, is the fact that that only seven of the seventeen finishing competitors finished on the lead lap, which makes Andreas' finish not quite so disappointing. Wrapping up his comments, Wirth said, "It was a long race -- a tough race, and a tough track. This really isn't the way I wanted things to go. After the incident at the start was cleared up and we all settled in, things were going pretty well -- the car was good and I thought we might manage a decent result. Unfortunately though, a lot of things happened during the race, and this was the best we could do. I'm really very happy to have finished the race -- it was a challenging weekend, and I learned a lot! Again, I want to thank Dale, and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing for the opportunity to run a couple of races in Champ Car this year -- the experience was extremely valuable. Getting a real taste of what it's like to drive these cars just makes me want it even more for next year. Hopefully I'll be back in Champ Car for 2007."
-credit: Andreas Wirth Racing