CHAMPCAR/CART: News, notes and quotes from 2001 teams

Player's Forsythe Racing announced Tuesday that Canadian drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani would once again form the team's driving tandem for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season. Both drivers contributed significantly to the ...

Player's Forsythe Racing announced Tuesday that Canadian drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani would once again form the team's driving tandem for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season.

Both drivers contributed significantly to the success the team enjoyed during the 2000 campaign. In his fourth year in the series, Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) registered a career-high 101 championship points, recorded seven top-five finishes and equaled a career-best result with a runner-up performance at Gateway International Raceway. He finished 11th in the championship and would likely have contended for a top-10 position had he not missed three of the season's first four events after sustaining a small fracture of his left wrist in a fall at his Las Vegas home.

Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) made a significant mark on the series during his rookie season, winning the pole position at Rio de Janeiro in only his fourth Champ Car qualifying performance. He finished 16th in the championship with 53 points, and also finished sixth in the series in laps completed, with 2,366 of a possible 2,830; and fourth in miles completed, with 4,026.954 of a possible 4,779.696. His season-best finish was fourth at Long Beach, in his second career start.

"This past season was quite eventful and I gained some maturity from it," said Carpentier. "I'm approaching the 2001 season with renewed confidence in the Team Player's operations and I'm convinced that our perseverance will pay off in the end."

Tagliani noted that the experience he gained as a rookie will prepare him more fully for next season.

"It's hard to imagine the extent of the challenge when you make the jump to the CART series, because quite often, you're facing the unknown," he said. "But now I know what to expect and how to react in tight situations. I think I've proved that I can stand up to the challenge and I feel that, as a team, we have all the tools to be right back in the thick of the championship hunt in 2001."

One day after announcing that driver Roberto Moreno would be powered by Toyota during the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, Patrick Racing conducted its first off-season test last Thursday and Friday at Sebring International Raceway. Moreno, coming off a career-best third-place finish in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series, completed more than 200 miles during the inaugural test, which took place less than one week after the team received its first of several new Reynard 01I chassis. "The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a tremendous job preparing the car for the test at Sebring in so little time," commented veteran Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee. "Overall, it was a great test. The first day was mostly an installation day, so we didn't run a lot of laps. However, the second day we ran a couple of hundred trouble-free miles and were very impressed with the results. The Toyota engine ran great and the test was a compliment to Reynard for the job they have done with the new car." Moreno, whose spectacular season included his first career FedEx Championship Series victory and pole position at Cleveland, was similarly pleased. "I impressed with the new 2001 Toyota engine," he said. "It is awesome. I love the throttle response and the fact that the engine was competitive right out of the box. I am also impressed with the way the Toyota people react to the adjustments we suggest and how they work with the Visteon/Patrick Racing team." Moreno, who just completed his seventh FedEx Championship Series season, claimed six podium finishes during a banner campaign for Patrick Racing in which teammate Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) finished second in the championship to Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske. Moreno scored championship points in 14 of 20 events and finished second in the FedEx Championship Series in laps and miles completed.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's new rookie driving tandem of Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian received an introduction to oval-track racing during a two-day test last Wednesday and Thursday at Nazareth Speedway. It was the first-ever oval test for both Junqueira and Minassian, who finished first and second, respectively, in the 2000 FIA Formula 3000 championship. The drivers completed more than 360 trouble-free miles during the two-day test, which was hampered only by cool temperatures and gusting winds. "Being on an oval was very different, but very good," said Junqueira, a native Brazilian. "It was exciting. I appreciate the feedback I get from the team. It is only going to help me learn." Minassian, a Frenchman, said he gained confidence during his two days on the Nazareth oval. "The oval was fun today," he said at the conclusion of the test. "Yesterday, it was more about understanding the track, the car and the lines and getting adjusted. I will be very excited to come back in May and race [at the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota, May 4-6]." Mike Hull, managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was impressed with the performance of the two rookies. "Although the weather didn't improve, the drivers did," Hull said. "We were able to complete the test with no mechanicals [problems] and move fairly quickly from getting comfortable to working with the engineers on setup. That says a lot for the quality of Team Target, especially our new drivers." Said team owner Chip Ganassi, whose team put together an unprecedented run of four consecutive FedEx Championship Series titles from 1996-99, "Nazareth is a tough track no matter what the conditions are, but man, what a great place for these guys to learn ... and they're doing great so far." Target Chip Ganassi Racing will conduct the first test of its 2001 Toyota Lola package in early December at Sebring International Raceway.

The Sigma Champ Car team, a new entrant in the FedEx Championship Series for the 2001 season, conducted an initial shakedown of its current car earlier this month at the Route 66 track outside Chicago. Brazilian Max Wilson, a former test driver for the Williams Formula One team, was at the wheel of the Ford-powered Lola for the shakedown session. It marked the first time Wilson had turned a wheel in a Champ Car, as well as the first time the Sigma team had put a car on track under its banner. "I was very pleased at the chance to finally get behind the wheel of a Champ Car," Wilson said afterwards. "To be honest, I couldn't tell you what the car was really like, but the engine was very strong and more powerful than anything I have ever driven. I'm really looking forward to taking the car out for some real testing soon." The Sigma team plans to announce its 2001 sponsorship package later this month.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Max Wilson , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull
Teams Williams , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing