Driver profile--Nelson Philippe Youngest Champ Car driver ever continues to impress in his rookie season (4 November 2004)--Nelson Philippe, who made his Champ Car debut in Long Beach this season at just seventeen years old, has impressed with...
Driver profile--Nelson Philippe
Youngest Champ Car driver ever continues to impress in his rookie season
(4 November 2004)--Nelson Philippe, who made his Champ Car debut in Long Beach this season at just seventeen years old, has impressed with his maturity, dedication, and speed in his rookie season. Philippe has adapted quickly to the high speeds and variety of tracks that the Champ Cars offer, scoring four top-ten finishes so far this season heading into the final round in Mexico City this weekend.
"It was a big step up to be competing in Champ Cars this season, but I am feeling more and more confident every time I get in the car and I feel like I can get more speed out of it each weekend," said Philippe. "For me the jump in speeds wasn't too big a deal-I got used to that right away in testing."
Despite everything that he had to adjust to in making the move up to Champ Cars, Philippe points out that for him, the biggest adjustment was a simple one.
"The races are longer than anything I have ever done as a driver before, so that took some time to get used to, but my fitness is excellent and the now it's not a big deal to be racing for two hours straight and I can just focus on getting the most out of the car."
Adam Schaechter, Philippe's Mi-Jack Conquest Racing engineer, has worked with drivers including Alex Zanardi, Tony Kanaan, and Alex Tagliani, and has been impressed with Philippe this season since he joined Mi-Jack Conquest Racing.
"As a driver, he has an amazing feel for the car," said Schaechter. "His feedback gives me all the information we need to get the car faster during the weekend. It's refreshing to be working with Nelson, because he doesn't come into the weekends with a lot of preconceived notions about the car."
Schaechter has not only been impressed with Philippe's feedback and car control, but he also thinks he's done a good job when it matters--after the green flag flies.
"The race that he drove in Australia was outstanding-he did everything we asked him to. We knew we had a three-stop strategy, and he was inch-perfect every lap and responded with some strong lap times. At one point, he was getting blocked, and we could see it on the monitor, and instead of coming on the radio and complaining, he just took care of it himself, and made an excellent pass. The kid can pedal the car, that's for sure."
Philippe made the move up from karting into race cars last season, campaigning the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series championship. Barber Dodge Pro Series Manager Rick Ratajczak was impressed with the young driver's approach during the season, and isn't surprised at all by his successful move up the ladder.
"Coming into testing for the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series season, Nelson had really not driven anything but shifter-karts, other than taking part on our 3-Day Racing School and a couple of Lapping Days in a Formula Dodge," said Ratajczak. There was a feeling of 'what is this guy doing?' but we saw very early on that he was more than ready to handle it. He has progressed exactly how you want to see a driver progress, and his talent has shown through. He has proved to everyone not only that he belongs in Champ Car, but that he is a talent to watch for the future."
"His feedback is very good, particularly for the amount of experience that he has," said Bachelart. "He knows what he wants out of the car, and it's very easy to forget that he is so young, because everything we see in him reflects a very mature driver, and a very fast one at that."
Philippe has enjoyed his first season in Champ Car, and is already looking forward to 2005.
"There was a lot to learn this season with some of the tracks being new to me and of course with the car, so next season, we should be even more competitive."
1991 Indy Lights Champion Eric Bachelart started Conquest Racing in 1997 to compete in the Indy Lights series, scoring a podium finish with driver Christophe Tinseau in the team's first season. Conquest Racing competed in the next four seasons in Indy Lights, winning races with Felipe Giaffone and Kristian Kolby. Mike Lanigan, President of Mi-Jack Products, an intermodal Chicago based company became a co-owner in 2002. Mi-Jack Conquest racing contested the 2002 Indy Racing League season with rookie Laurent Redon, netting a podium finish in just the third race of the season and clinched the Rookie of the year award.
Mi-Jack Conquest racing rejoined the Champ Car family in 2003, stepping up to the Champ Car World Series with Brazilian Mario Haberfeld and scoring eleven top-ten finishes despite competing with a Reynard. The team is proud to be contesting its second season in the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, with rookie drivers Justin Wilson and Nelson Philippe.