Rocketsports Champ Car Duo Take Top Finishes from Back-of-the-Pack Starts Monterrey, Mexico (Sunday May 23, 2004) - Under the fierce heat of the Mexican sun, Rocketsports drivers, Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe, were undoubtedly the most ...
Rocketsports Champ Car Duo Take Top Finishes from Back-of-the-Pack Starts
Monterrey, Mexico (Sunday May 23, 2004) - Under the fierce heat of the Mexican sun, Rocketsports drivers, Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe, were undoubtedly the most successful drivers in the fourth annual Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. With 15th and 17th starting positions on the grid for Tagliani and Philippe respectively, the Rocketsports organization concentrated on strategy to get ahead, and met with tremendously positive results as both drivers managed to leap forward to top-five and top-ten finishes.
Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola, was forced to begin today's race from 15th position on the grid. With yesterday's steering problems rectified, Tagliani posted a time of 1:16.750 in Sunday morning warm-up and was confident he had the car to score good results in Round Two of the Champ Car World Series. Tagliani depended on strategy to move up through the grid, and move ahead he did, gaining ten positions to finish fifth - his third consecutive top-five finish on the Monterrey circuit.
"The Rocketsports/Johnson Controls team pulled together today for one of our best races ever. Despite the problems we had getting qualified close to the front of the grid, the team gave me a great car, a podium car, and we worked together to develop a good strategy. We communicated throughout the race to make it happen and we gained enough positions for an excellent finish.
"It's easy to re-evaluate strategy and say 'oh we should've--' after a race, but we've worked hard for just over a year and have learned a lot. Now, that experience will begin to pay off," said Tagliani, who is the only driver to have a trio of top-five finishes in Monterrey, where he gave Rocketsports Racing its first Podium last season.
Today's fifth-place finish puts Tagliani in seventh position in the Champ Car World Series standings with 38 points. (15 + 21 race points + 1 for laps led +1 for most positions gained)
Nelson Philippe, the 17 year-old rookie sensation, continues to make his mark in the Champ Car World Series with his consistent form and stamina on the track. Philippe gained a remarkable seven positions from his 17th place start, to finish 10th in his second Champ Car career start.
In addition to outstanding passes and excellent pit stops by the LeasePlan crew, Philippe came out of two contact incidents without damage or stress, and passed many veterans in the field to score his first top-ten finish in the 72 lap race.
"The No 17 Lola was perfect for the race. We escaped damage after making contact twice on the track. We were lucky to get away without problems and we didn't let that interfere with our plans. I stayed with it and kept focused on what I needed to do. I was able to pass when I saw the opportunity-- and I took each one," said Philippe. "The LeasePlan crew was excellent and got me out if the pits in great time.
"I was a little put-off at having to start so far back on the grid, but the crew came through, the car was great and we got the job done. I'm pleased with a great race here in Monterrey," concluded Philippe, who gained 11 race points and currently sits in 12th position in the Champ Car World Series standings with a total of 19 points.