MONTERREY, Mexico (March 18, 2003) --- Although their goal was to win their 10th season-opening Champ Car World Series race one month ago in St. Petersburg, Fla. Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) came away from the event with a trophy from ...
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 18, 2003) --- Although their goal was to win their 10th season-opening Champ Car World Series race one month ago in St. Petersburg, Fla. Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) came away from the event with a trophy from #1 PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira's third place finish and made history with rookie Sebastien Bourdais's pole winning effort. However, racing is a sport for goal-oriented individuals and unless you are fastest in every session, lead every race lap from pole and win the event there is a feeling that things can be improved upon. With a two-car team, there will always be an area to work on as only one car can excel in each of these tasks. Newman/Haas Racing thrives on this daily challenge.
They may have not won the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season-opener but they are looking forward to returning to Monterrey, Mexico's Fundidora Park, the site of the 2001 and 2002 season-openers as well as two consecutive victories by former driver Cristiano da Matta. Newman/Haas Racing is hoping to make it three-for-three this weekend with their new lineup of Junqueira and Bourdais.
After two disappointing events at the 2.104-mile permanent road course, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira is looking forward to returning with the team that won the only two Champ car races run here.
"I think the combination between me and Newman/Haas Racing is a good thing for Monterrey," said Junqueira. "I had two bad races there so I really want to put the PacifiCare car up front and they won the two races and want to continue their success. A mechanical failure ended my race in 2001 and last year I went to the back of the field trying to avoid Townsend Bell's crash and then I drove hard to make up for it but my engine blew on the last lap. I hope that Newman/Haas's success rubs off on me and I can win the race this year. For sure to drive for the team that won the last two races will be big. They want to win a third time and I really want to as well. I'm going to try really hard. There is some pressure but on the other hand, I really want to do well and the team has a good set-up so we should be competitive."
His teammate Bourdais is hoping to not only continue NHR's success at this track but he is also hoping to continue to get acclimated to his new surroundings as quickly as he did in the season-opening round in St. Petersburg. After only seven days behind the wheel of a Champ car prior to the start of the season, Bourdais took to the track in St. Petersburg and collected one point each for setting the fastest lap times in Friday and Saturday's qualifying sessions en route to earning pole position in his series debut. It was the first time a rookie had accomplished the feat in their debut since Nigel Mansell won the pole in the '93 Australian event - also while driving for NHR. Bourdais also became the first driver in the 25-year history of series to lead the first laps of his inaugural Champ car race when he held the lead for the first 30 laps, one of which was the fastest lap of the race.
"We knew it was possible to win the pole once we ran well in St. Petersburg but it's always a surprise when you are a rookie and win the pole straight away in the first race," said Bourdais. "It was definitely a good surprise especially since the last time it was done was in 1993 by Nigel Mansell. What I know about Monterrey is that Newman/Haas has a really good car there and they won the last two races so I think we have a good chance to run well. It is a pretty low grip track and the layout is nice from what I know. I have heard that I would enjoy the race in Monterrey. I'm looking forward to racing again."
Bourdais is confident that the 2003 season will produce some good results but more importantly, he is focused on learning along the way. After a brush with the wall contributed to an eleventh place finish in St. Petersburg, Bourdais is ready to get back to work this weekend.
"It is going to be a learning season for sure but the important thing will be to see how quick we will learn together," said Bourdais, who celebrated his 24th birthday since the season-opening race. "If we can learn from our mistakes and move on, it is going to determine how well the season progresses. We will probably be able to win some races this year but I don't know if we will be able to battle for the Championship. The car is good so it's creating a lot of expectations. We will make the most of it."
In it's third season on the Champ Car World Series schedule, the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix is a favorite among the drivers and fans alike. Until a massive record raceday crowd of 174,866 rolled into Mexico City in November 2002 for the Champ Cars debut at AutÃ"dromo Hermanos RodrÃ guez, the 2001 Monterrey crowd of 116,000 held the all-time Champ Car raceday attendance mark. Complementing the raceday turnout in Mexico City 2002 was a total of 351,972 spectators for the weekend, which also stacked up to be an all-time Champ Car record, surpassing the 316,000 that moved through the turnstiles that same weekend in Monterrey 2001.
Hailing from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Junqueira feels at home while in Mexico. "I love to race in Monterrey. The crowd is huge. There are a lot of big race fans and that makes me really excited. I think the fans in Mexico are incredible. They really watch us and know all of the drivers. Every race day in Mexico there have been over 100,000 people. Latin Americans scream and shout and you hear them when you are on the parade lap. You can listen to the people going crazy. I just love racing in Monterrey!"
Television coverage for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will kick-off with live coverage of Saturday's Qualifying session beginning at 2:30 p.m. while race coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 23 with the 30-minute pre-race show. Coverage of the 85-lap race will begin at 2:30 p.m. All three programs are on SPEED Channel and all times are Eastern.