CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio Team Rahal Preview

TEAM RAHAL'S HERTA LOOKS TO RECLAIM MID-OHIO POLE HILLIARD, OH . . . Shell driver Bryan Herta is considered one of the top road/street course drivers in CART, but like any driver in the series there are several courses that are identified...

TEAM RAHAL'S HERTA LOOKS TO RECLAIM MID-OHIO POLE

HILLIARD, OH . . . Shell driver Bryan Herta is considered one of the top road/street course drivers in CART, but like any driver in the series there are several courses that are identified closely with the driver due to their dominance on that circuit. With the 14th stop on the FedEx Championship Series slated for this week at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta finds himself on one of his signature tracks.

The 1997 pole winner for the Miller Lite 200, Herta has never qualified worse than third on Mid-Ohio's 2.25-mile road course in his four previous seasons in CART. Herta has captured a pair of top-five finishes in the race in 1995 and 1996. The last two seasons Herta's race at Mid-Ohio has been shortened by on track problems. The 29-year-old native of Valencia, CA looks to re-establish his dominance this year.

"I love racing at Mid-Ohio," said Herta. "This track holds a lot of fond memories for me and is one of my favorite courses on the CART circuit. We usually run well at this track and I expect to be one of the top cars all weekend."

Herta's optimism comes in part from the success of Team Rahal's test at Mid-Ohio the last week of July. Both Herta and Miller Lite driver Max Papis posted unofficial single lap times that would have topped Dario Franchitti's track record of 105.679 mph.

"Mid-Ohio is a rhythm course in that one corner flows into the next," said Herta. "This is a very busy track in that you as a driver are constantly required to negotiate a turn on the track. Physically, with the demands of the track and the heat and humidity that we encounter in Ohio in August, this is probably the most demanding race we will run this season." For Papis and the Miller car, Mid-Ohio provides an opportunity to bounce back from the frustration of the Grand Prix of Detroit. "The state of Michigan has been rough on us lately," joked Papis. "I am glad we are done with the races in Michigan for awhile."

Papis' GP of Detroit was cut short when he was hit from behind on the first lap of the race. The incident snapped Papis' career best streak of 12 straight running finishes. He enters the race at Mid-Ohio ninth in the season point standings with a career best 68 points. "I am looking forward to racing for Miller Lite and Team Rahal in front of the fans of central-Ohio, said Papis. "The fans of Ohio have been great supporters of Team Rahal over the years and I know that we will have the crowd cheering for us over the course of the weekend. It will be kind of nice to be the home team this week." Driving at Mid-Ohio has always been special to me because of the time I have lived in Ohio," said Herta. "A lot of the friends and family of the team members come to the track and that gives the race a family atmosphere. The Ohio fans have always welcomed me and made me feel at home."

THE NEED FOR SPEED

You would think that Team Rahal drivers Papis and Herta get enough speed on the weekends during the CART FedEx Championship Series. Wednesday Papis and Herta spent the day with the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard in Toledo, Ohio experiencing first hand the raw power and precision of the United States Air Force's F-16 "Fighting Falcon."

Invited by the Captain Michael Timbrook to join him on his daily sortie, Papis and Herta each took a two-hour flight in the United States premiere fighter plane.

"What a thrill," said Herta upon landing. "I experience g-forces every week in the Shell car but nothing like what I just encountered." [Herta and Timbrook posted 7g on a maneuver during the flight.] "The entire flight was an awesome experience. It was odd because I found the experience to be very tranquil yet I was in one of the most powerful machines ever built."

Papis could barely contain his excitement upon landing. "That was fantastic," said Papis. "The shear power and speed that the F-16 possess is unbelievable. During our flight we flew over the track at Michigan Speedway and over Belle Isle. I never thought I would be able to say I went faster at Michigan and Belle Isle than I did in my Champ Car, but our F-16 more than doubled my speed at the U.S. 500. What a rush."

The Tale of the Tape - Champ Car/F-16 Comparison

Category        Champ Car       F-16 Falcon
Cost            $1 million      $22 million

Weight 1,550 lb. 37,500 lb.

Top Speed 240 mph 1,200 mph 2.0 Mach

Fuel Load 35 gallons 12,000 gallons

G Forces 5g 9g

FOUNDATION BENEFITS BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF CENTRAL OHIO

The Bobby Rahal Foundation will make a donation of $17,000 to the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Central Ohio prior to Sunday's running of the Miller Lite 200. The Bobby Rahal Foundation is the not-for-profit charitable organization founded by the three-time PPG Cup Champion prior to his final season as a driver. During the 1998 season and "Rahal's Last Ride," the Foundation raised over $400,000 which is earmarked for charitable donations to organizations in CART race communities during the 1999 FedEx Championship Series.

In addition Team Rahal co-owner David Letterman will sponsor 40 Little Brothers and Sisters on Sunday to attend the Mid-Ohio Race.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta