This Week in Ford Racing May 27, 2002 CART Champ Car World Series Saturday's Centennial 250 marks the first night race in the history of CART Champ Car racing at the world's oldest permanent track, The Milwaukee Mile. Paul Tracy is the...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 27, 2002
CART Champ Car World Series
Saturday's Centennial 250 marks the first night race in the history of CART Champ Car racing at the world's oldest permanent track, The Milwaukee Mile. Paul Tracy is the defending race winner and has three race wins in Milwaukee to his credit, but has never raced at night. Rookie Darren Manning will be making his first trip to The Milwaukee Mile and is looking to continue his strong season and pick up his first win. The two Ford-Cosworth drivers weighed in on preparing for their first night race and the season so far this year.
PAUL TRACY - #3 Players/Indeck Ford-Cosworth - HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO MILWAUKEE FOR YOUR FIRST NIGHT RACE? I feel good. I think I've got to use my experience at Milwaukee, I've won there three times, so we need to have a good result there after two disappointing events in Europe. We kind of gave up our points lead, but going to Milwaukee ... well, it's a place I feel good about going.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES WILL YOU LOOK FOR WITH THE NIGHT RACE? I don't foresee having a problem racing at night, although I've never run at night before. I think it's going to be the same for everybody, it's going to be a new experience for everybody and we just have to see what happens when it comes. I'll just have to use my experience there. We'll be good.
DO YOU THINK THE LIGHTING WILL CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS? I don't think so; we just have to get used to it. I don't know what it's going to be like. You've just got to get used to the shadows and everything that's going to be going on there. What we need to do is just focus on having a good race.
WILL THE LATE START EFFECT YOUR RACE WEEKEND SCHEDULE? Not so much. It'll be pretty hectic with practice and qualifying on Saturday and then the race, so again, we just need to have a good result and we don't have a lot of practice time to prepare.
WHAT TYPE OF EXPERIENCE WILL THIS BE FOR THE FANS AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE? I think it's going to be a good opportunity for the fans. When the summer starts to come, a lot of people don't want to take the whole day to go out to the race track, so if you race Saturday night, the fans can come out in the afternoon, get some food, sit down, watch the race and go home and have their Sunday free to do whatever they want with family. I think that'll be good.
EARLIER THIS YEAR YOU WON CONSECUTIVE RACES WITH THE SAME ENGINE, DID YOU EVER THINK THAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE? That was great, we need to get back on that winning track. We had a misfire in Germany, which was frustrating because we just ran around uncompetitive the whole weekend and I felt that we could have finished in the top eight or top seven like Pat (Carpentier) did. It is nice that we can run the engines as long as we do. I'll be running the same engine in Milwaukee that I ran in Germany. Before you'd just change the engine and go to a different one, but that's not the case now, which is good. I'm just ready to rock and roll.
DARREN MANNING - #15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth - HOW ARE YOUR PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST NIGHT RACING EXPERIENCE? It's just preparation as normal. Hopefully, when we get there, the team will be able to see the lights as were going to race in them, before we actually get to test. I know we test in the evening on Thursday, so we can run the car before we race underneath the lights. But myself, I haven't driven in the dark before or at nighttime under floodlights, but a lot of the team members and engineers and quite a few of the other guys have got experience with it, so they'll be able to tell me if there's anything different I should be looking for. But basically just preparation as normal. I just won't be using a dark visor, that's for sure.
THURSDAY NIGHT WILL BE YOUR FIRST TIME ON TRACK DURING ROOKIE PRACTICE. WHAT DO YOU LOOK TO LEARN DURING THAT TIME? I've been watching the tapes of the races in Milwaukee over the past few years before I go there and it looks like there are quite a few different lines. My teammate has driven there a few times and I'll be tying to get as much information out of him as I possibly can. During the rookie test, I'll be trying to go in low and in high and see if we can run two-wide. I guess that's the one good thing about having a teammate, is that we can practice race scenarios as well, so we'll probably do a bit of that in the first session before we get right down into making the car go faster.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FANS CAN EXPECT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? I think all the races are showing this year, that with the stock Ford engine, it's extremely close and I think in Milwaukee, as well, with it being a one-mile oval, that the lap times are going to be extremely close. Hopefully, the Reynard can be competitive if we can get it nice and low and it's not so bumpy.
VISUALLY WILL THIS BE DIFFERENT FOR THE FANS? It's going to be lots of flames, which are going to be lighting up the sky. And the track is not going to be 100 percent lit all the way around, so the cars are going to be flashing in and out of the floodlights, so yeah, it's going to be pretty spectacular. There's going to be nice flames coming out of the exhaust. We've got a new exhaust now so the spectators will be able to see that a little bit better, even though it's just for performance.
HOW DOES THE SHORT OVAL COMPARE TO THE SUPERSPEEDWAY FROM A PHYSICAL STANDPOINT? The speeds are going to be pretty similar to Germany. We had to run in similar downforce specification in Germany as we are going to do here at Milwaukee. We need as much downforce as you can possibly get and it's not going to be as much of a break as we had on the long straights in Germany. Even there you had to hold the car to keep in a straight line because it's made to be turning left quite a lot. Germany was pretty physical, and that's one thing that I've been experiencing this year is fitness wise I'm pretty good on, but maybe I just need to improve my strength a little bit, which is getting better.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AFTER YOUR FIRST FIVE RACES IN A CHAMP CAR? I've learned a lot. I thought I was pretty experienced having about 10 or 11 years of driving, even going up to Formula One testing, but these five race have thrown five different scenarios at me. I've raced hundreds of times, so five different scenarios, it's a bit something else. The biggest thing is the strength that I've been building up, and my relationship with the team that's getting stronger and stronger. We haven't been outside the top-10 and we think we should have had some top-fives in there, so I'm getting stronger and stronger relationships with my engineer and the mechanics, so hopefully we'll improve on our best finish of sixth place so far.
FORD-COSWORTH "XFE" POSTS IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS - Five races into the 2003 season the latest Ford-Cosworth engine is living up to it's billing as a more durable Champ Car powerplant. The 311-mile German 500 proved to be the biggest test to date for the engine with CART's new aero packages allowing cars to run at an average speed of 168.967 mph around the 2.023-mile superspeedway, 13.648 mph faster than race-winner Kenny Brack's average speed in 2001.
To date, the "XFE" has logged 66,252.34 total miles. Of those, 39,217.72 have been logged on race weekends with only two race time engine problems. One engine failure in Long Beach with Sebastian Bourdais, and one spark plug failure in Oriol Servia's car during the opening weekend in St. Petersburg.
FORD-COSWORTH VICTORIES AT THE MILE - Ford-Cosworth has seen much success at The Milwaukee Mile since entering CART in 1979. During that time Ford-Cosworth engines have won 17 races at The Mile, the last coming in 2001 with Kenny Brack. Michael Andretti and Tom Sneva lead the way with four Ford-Cosworth victories each, while eight others have notched one win with Ford-Cosworth power, including - Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Gordon Johncock, Nigel Mansell, Roger McCluskey, Johnny Rutherford and Paul Tracy.
POINTS RACE - The European swing on the Champ Car schedule tightened up the hunt for the Vanderbilt Cup with the top three spots moving within 10 points of each other. Leader Paul Tracy struggled through the two races notching only two points combined, while rookie Sebastien Bourdais landed his first two career Champ Car wins jumping from 16th to fourth in points, a 44-point swing. Bourdais' Newman/Haas teammate, Bruno Junqueira, moved into a tie for the points lead with Tracy posting second and fourth place finishes at Brands Hatch and The EuroSpeedway, respectively. Team Rahal's, Michel Jourdain, Jr. continued his consistent season picking up 22 points over the two races to hold his third place spot. Fellow Mexican, Mario Dominguez, found himself on the podium twice while notching 30 points on the trip moving him into fifth in place. The back-to-back podiums were only the second and third top-three finishes of his young career, his only other podium came in Australia last year when he finished first.
TRACKING THE ROOKIES - The 2003 rookie class continues to be paced by Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais took home his first win on an oval in his first try, making him the first rookie to do so. The win from the pole saw the French native lead a race high 74 laps. With the Euro sweep, Bourdais jumped into the lead in rookie points with 49. Darren Manning also had an impressive trip across the pond with two points paying finishes. His sixth place finish in Germany was his best of 2003 helping him move into second place among first year drivers with 22 points. Rounding out the top-five rookies are Mario Haberfeld (20), Ryan Hunter-Reay (9), Patrick Lemarie (8) and Tiago Monteiro (8).
FORD-COSWORTH DRIVERS TO WATCH -
Bruno Junqueira - Junqueira has quietly slipped into a tie for the lead in championship points with Paul Tracy - the two are knotted at 66. Junqueira qualified second in Germany and went on to finish fourth picking up 12 points along the way and leading 23 laps after finishing second at Brands Hatch. With the two strong runs, Junqueira was able to make up a 26-point deficit in the points. The 26-year-old Brazilian has seen success in Milwaukee posting a fourth place finish in '01 and finishing 10th last year after starting fifth on the grid.
Darren Manning (R) - Manning posted his best start and finish of his Champ Car career in Germany starting fifth and finishing sixth. The German 500 was his sixth career Champ Car start and his fifth with Walker Racing. The English native made his debut in Rockingham last season with Team St. George. Manning has collected five top-ten finishes in six starts, and currently sits 12th in driver points. The fifth place spot on the grid in Germany marked the fourth consecutive race that Manning has improved his previous best qualifying effort.
Jimmy Vasser - After a disappointing race in England, Vasser bounced back to finish eighth in Germany and move up one spot to ninth in points. Vasser heads to Milwaukee where he took the checkered flag in '98, and finished ninth last year. The Champ Car veteran has started 170 consecutive CART events, which is second only to Al Unser Jr.'s 192 consecutive starts.
SPARK PLUGS - Sebastien Bourdais' win in Germany makes him the first driver since Juan Montoya in 1999 to win back-to-back races as a rookie ... with his second-place run, Mario Dominguez became the first driver in the history of Herdez Competition to earn back-to-back podium finishes ... Paul Tracy made his 196th Champ Car World Series start in Germany, moving him ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi for fifth on the all-time series list ... Bruno Junqueira remains as the only driver to complete all 599 laps of competition this year ... Joel Camathias takes over as the only rookie to have finished all five races this year ... Bourdais' average speed of 170.903 mph in Germany set a new standard for the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, eclipsing the old mark of 155.319 mph held by Kenny Brack.