CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey Honda Indy 300 pre-event notes

Reigning Honda Indy 300 champion Adrian Fernandez is far from predicting a repeat of his 2000 Gold Coast success when he lines up in the opening round of the FedEx Championship Series in Monterrey Mexico this weekend. Fernandez, who finished ...

Reigning Honda Indy 300 champion Adrian Fernandez is far from predicting a repeat of his 2000 Gold Coast success when he lines up in the opening round of the FedEx Championship Series in Monterrey Mexico this weekend.

Fernandez, who finished second in last year's championship, has been mobbed by sponsors and fans in his home country this week while he has tried to put the finishing touches on his new team in time for the Tecate Temex Monterrey Grand Prix, presented by Herdez.

"There have certainly been many changes since my win on the Gold Coast last year," said Fernandez, who won the Surfers Paradise race from an amazing 17th place on the grid.

"We have managed to get out team together and I have been happy with our progress, although we still have a long way to go.

"It would certainly be fantastic to win the first race back in Mexico in front of my home crowd, but I think it would be a huge task considering our team will be making its debut.

"We have had a massive week in Mexico with fan and sponsor commitments and I think everyone would leave happy if we could go away from the first round with some championship points in the bag.

"There are so many teams with new drivers and equipment and it will be interesting to see where everyone finishes at the end of the day."

There are many teams who have different driver and engine combinations for this season and it is always difficult to tell from pre-season testing who had the right package.There is little doubt that reigning series champions Marlboro Team Penske will again be the benchmark in many areas and will start as title favourite. Team Penske retains its winning Reynard-Honda package and continues to have series champion Gil de Ferran and fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves as its drivers.

Michael Andretti will make his debut for Team Motorola, which is being prepared under the roof of Team KOOL Green in Indianapolis.The new Reynard-Honda team has quietly gone about its business and could be one of the real contenders for this year's title. Andretti will be having his first Champ Car start in anything but a Ford-powered car this weekend.

Patrick Racing will campaign Toyota engines for the first time this weekend for regular driver Roberto Moreno and newcomer Jimmy Vasser.A win this weekend would be an extra bonus for team owner U.E "Pat" Patrick who is also the owner/promoter of the Monterrey race.

PacWest Racing will also run Toyota engines for the first time for veteran Mauricio Gugelmin and young Kiwi star Scott Dixon.Winless since 1997, PacWest should enjoy the reliability and speed of the Toyota after struggling with the Mercedes-Benz-badged Ilmor engines for the past three years.

Newman-Haas Racing will also debut with Toyota power with its two cars being driven by Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta.

* The first round of the FedEx Championship Series can be seen on Network Ten from 11.30pm on Monday night.

LATEST NEWS AND RUMOURS

CART NAMES VETERAN RACER CHRIS KNEIFEL CHIEF STEWARD

Championship Auto Racing Teams announced that veteran race car driver Chris Kneifel has been named Chief Steward of CART's FedEx Championship Series. CART President of Racing Operations Hal Whiteford announced that Kneifel will assume his duties immediately and will oversee the action when CART opens its 21-race, 2001 season on Sunday in Monterrey, Mexico. Kneifel, 39, is an accomplished racer who was in victory circle just last month after winning the 24 Hours of Daytona as a member of the Chevrolet factory-backed Corvette team. Kneifel raced competitively in the CART FedEx

Championship Series from 1982-84, starting 19 races over those three years and finishing tied for 17th in the final series points standings in 1983. His career-best finish was an eighth on three occasions.

"Chris Kneifel has the attributes we were seeking in a chief steward," said Whiteford. "He has racing experience on the top levels of the sport. He thinks about racing from a driver's perspective. He has demonstrated that he has a solid understanding of what it takes to properly conduct a race. He also has experience in a variety of business situations that will help him as he manages the many issues that arise during a race. We are extremely pleased Chris is joining us."

STEVE NEWEY LEAVES MO NUNN RACING

Mo Nunn Racing announced last week that Steve Newey has left his position as general manager.

Newey, who was retained by the team in late 1999 to assemble a new racing organization to contest the CART FedEx Championship Series beginning with the 2000 season, will pursue other interests. "I have enjoyed the experience of working with Morris (Nunn) and starting a new race team, and then expanding the team to a two-car operation for the 2001 season," said Newey. "Mo Nunn Racing has an excellent operation in place, and I am sure the team will be very successful in 2001. However, the time has come for me to pursue new opportunities in the racing business."

Nunn's second-year team opens the 2001 CART campaign at Monterrey, Mexico, next week with returning driver Tony Kanaan in the #55 Hollywood-sponsored Honda-Reynard, and welcomes back to the series two-time champion Alex Zanardi in the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom sponsored Honda-Reynard. Nunn extended to Newey his warmest regards upon his departure.

"We've come a long way in a little more than a year's time, and Steve certainly played a vital role in growing our operation," said Nunn. "We enter the 2001 season on solid footing, and it was Steve's veteran leadership that helped get us there. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward."

COYNE AND PROJECT INDY JOIN FORCES

Dale Coyne Racing has formed an alliance with Team P.R.G. owners Andreas Leberle and Christian Danner to enter two Ford/Cosworth -powered Lolas for the 2001 FedEx CART Championship Series.

"If you look at what Team P.R.G. has to bring to the table and combine it with what our team has in place, it makes sense," said Dale Coyne. "Team P.R.G. has worked diligently over the off-season to procure new sponsors, while Dale Coyne Racing has the infrastructure and personnel to run a competitive two-car effort, as demonstrated by our strong end-of-season showing in 2000. Given the extreme competitiveness of Champ Car racing these days, we will be stronger together than apart. We all felt that this is the best possible scenario to run a competitive program in 2001." The two cars will be run under the Dale Coyne Racing entries at its Plainfield, Illinois, shop. Returning Team P.R.G. driver Luiz Garcia Jr, from Brazil, will drive the No. 21 car with sponsorship from Embratel, a division of MCI WorldCom, and fresh support from Infineon semiconductors and Dark Dog energy drink.

Michael Krumm, from Reutlinger, Germany, will drive the No. 19 car in the opening race at Monterrey, Mexico, with support from Dark Dog, and Infineon.

CART COMMENCES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST ISL MARKETING AG TO COLLECT PAST DUE AMOUNTS AND TO SECURE GUARANTEES

Championship Auto Racing Teams has announced that it has filed a complaint against ISL Marketing AG in Oakland Michigan County Circuit Court seeking compensatory and consequential damages in excess of $100 million. ISL has served as CART's exclusive worldwide marketing agent since the execution of the contract in 1998, seeking sponsorship for the open-wheel sanctioning organization. The agreement obligates ISL to guarantee a pre-determined amount of income to CART.

In the suit, CART alleges fraudulent inducement; breach of the agreement; and failure by ISL to pay more than $6 million due to CART with respect to its 2000 guarantee. The company indicated that discussions to resolve the matter had been ongoing but have reached an impasse. CART has concluded that it has no choice but to pursue legal action against ISL.

2001 FEDEX CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES TEAMS

Team                    Drivers                 Chassis-Engine  Sponsor
Arciero Brook Racing    Max Wilson (25)         Lola-Phoenix    Redback
Dale Coyne Racing       Luiz Garcia (21)        Lola-Ford       Embratel,
                        Michael Krumm (19)      Lola-Ford       Dark Dog
Fernandez Racing        Adrian Fernandez (51)   Reynard-Honda   Tecate
                        Shinji Nakano (52)      Reynard-Honda   Avex/Alpine
Herdez Bettenhausen     Michel Jourdain Jr (16) Lola-Ford       Herdez
Marlboro Team Penske    Gil de Ferran (1)       Reynard-Honda   Marlboro
                        Helio Castroneves (3)   Reynard-Honda   Marlboro
Mo Nunn Racing          Alex Zanardi (66)       Reynard-Honda   Pioneer
                        Tony Kanaan (55)        Reynard-Honda   Hollywood
Newman-Haas Racing      Christian Fittipaldi (11) Lola-Toyota   Kmart
                        Cristiano da Matta (6)  Lola-Toyota     Havoline
PacWest Racing          Mauricio Gugelmin (17)  Reynard-Toyota  Nextel
                        Scott Dixon (18)        Reynard-Toyota  PacWest
Patrick Racing          Jimmy Vasser (20)       Reynard-Toyota  Patrick Racing
                        Roberto Moreno (40)     Reynard-Toyota  Visteon
Player's-Forsythe Racing Patrick Carpentier (32) Reynard-Ford   Players
                        Alex Tagliani (33)      Reynard-Ford    Players
Sigma Autosport         Oriol Servia (22)       Lola-Ford       TBA
Target-Chip Ganassi Racing Bruno Junqueira (4)  Lola-Toyota     Target
                        Nicolas Minassian       Lola-Toyota     Target
Team KOOL Green         Paul Tracy (26)         Reynard-Honda   KOOL
                        Dario Franhitti (27)    Reynard-Honda   KOOL
Team Motorola           Michael Andretti (39)   Reynard-Honda   Motorola
Team PRG                Michael Krumm (19)      Reynard-Phoenix Dark Dog        
                        Luiz Garcia (21)        Reynard-Phoenix Embratel
Team Rahal              Max Papis (7)           Lola-Ford       Miller Lite
                        Kenny Brack (8)         Lola-Ford       Shell
Walker Racing           Tora Takagi (5)         Reynard-Toyota  Pioneer 
Zakspeed                Bryan Herta (77)        Reynard-Ford    TBA
                        Marcel Tiemann  Reynard Ford    TBA
                        
                        

2001 FEDEX CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES - DRIVERS CHART

no      Driver                  Team                    Country Born            Year
1       Gil de Ferran           Marlboro Team Penske    Brazil  11.11.67         5
3       Helio Castroneves       Marlboro Team Penske    Brazil  10.5.75         2
4       Bruno Junqueira         Target Chip Ganassi     Brazil  4.11.76         1st
5       Tora Takagi             Walker Racing           Japan   12.2.74         1st 
6       Cristiano da Matta      Newman-Haas             Brazil  19.9.73         1
7       Max Papis               Team Rahal              Italy   3.10.69         4
8       Kenny Brack             Team Rahal              Sweden  21.3.66         1
11      Christian Fittipaldi    Newman-Haas             Brazil  18.1.71         5
12      Nicolas Minassian       Target Chip Ganassi     France  28.2.73         1st 
16      Michel Jourdain Jr      Herdez Bettenhausen     Mexico  2.9.76          4
17      Mauricio Gugelmin       PacWest Racing          Brazil  20.4.63         8
18      Scott Dixon             PacWest Racing          New Zealand  22.7.80    1st 
19      Michael Krumm           Dale Coyne Racing       Germany 19.3.70         1st 
20      Jimmy Vasser            Patrick Racing          USA     20.11.65        8
21      Luiz Garcia             Dale Coyne Racing       Brazil  4.5.71          1
22      Oriol Servia            Sigma                   Spain   13.8.74         1
25      Max Wilson              Areiro Brook Racing     Brazil  22.8.72         1st 
26      Paul Tracy              Team Kool Green         Canada  17.12.68        9
27      Dario Franchitti        Team KOOLGreen          Scotland 19.5.73        3
32      Patrick Carpentier      Players-Forsythe        Canada  13.8.71         3
33      Alex Tagliani           Players-Forsythe        Canada  18.10.72        1
39      Michael Andretti        Team Motorola           USA     5.10.62         17
40      Roberto Moreno          Patrick Racing          Brazil  11.2.59         6
51      Adrian Fernandez        Team Fernandez          Mexico  20.4.65         8
52      Shinji Nakano           Team Fernandez          Japan   4.4.71          1
55      Tony Kanaan             Mo Nunn Racing          Brazil  31.12.74        2
66      Alex Zanardi            Mo Nunn Racing          Italy   23.10.66        3
77      Bryan Herta             Zakspeed                USA     23.5.70         6
        Marcel Tiemann          Zakspeed                Germany 13.3.74         1st 

- Tracey Jones

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian Danner , Chris Kneifel , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Max Wilson , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Michael Krumm , Bryan Herta , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Marcel Tiemann , Chip Ganassi , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dale Coyne Racing , HART , Team Zakspeed