CHAMPCAR/CART: Sebring open test Friday report

Cristiano da Matta Takes First Laps in PKV Champ Car During Opening Day of Sebring Preseason Testing SEBRING, Fla. (February 4, 2005) -- The last time that Cristiano da Matta unbuckled from a Champ Car, he did it as the series champion after a...

Cristiano da Matta Takes First Laps in PKV Champ Car During Opening Day of Sebring Preseason Testing

SEBRING, Fla. (February 4, 2005) -- The last time that Cristiano da Matta unbuckled from a Champ Car, he did it as the series champion after a seven-win 2002 season that saw him wrap up the title with three races to go.

Twenty-seven months later da Matta strapped back into a Champ Car for his first test session since rejoining the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Taking the opportunity to get in a day of testing, Da Matta drove from Daytona, where he is teamed with Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Newman in tomorrow's Rolex 24, to Sebring to join his new PKV Racing teammates for the first of a three-day Champ Car test session.

Monday's cold temperatures delayed the start of the morning session, leading to strategy changes that saw Newman/Haas and RuSPORT pocket their test days for future use. The elements would eventually limit da Matta to a 50-mile day as he joined a trio of rookie drivers on the 1.2-mile Sebring circuit during the afternoon. Da Matta put in a short session, thus saving PKV Racing a full testing day, before heading back to Daytona for the start of tomorrow's endurance race.

"I can't say that I am completely comfortable in the Champ Car because we only ran 30 laps, but I don't think that it will take much longer," da Matta said. "We put in some good work today, got a lot of little things like adjusting the pedals done so that at the next test, we will be ready to go hard right away. I am impressed with this team already and the chance to work with guys like Jimmy (Vasser) and (Jim) McGee makes me believe that we can do some good things this year."

German F3 star Timo Glock tested the #8 Rocketsports machine while former Indy Lights driver Matt Halliday and 2004 Nissan World Series competitor Bruce Jouanny joined for a full day with Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing. Halliday ran over six hours today in the Mi-Jack/Conquest Reynard in an effort made more impressive by the fact that he was in the hospital until 5 a.m. before heading to the track.

"I was in the hospital sick as a dog and I finally left about five, and then came here and rested until 10:30," said Halliday. "I felt like death but I didn't want to miss this. I think it went pretty well, we ran a lot of laps, and I felt pretty good in the car. This is a good team. They've got good people. I think they're on the verge of doing something really good here."

The morning chill caused Newman/Haas to reconsider a test day for Bruno Junqueira, while RuSPORT decided the day would be better spent working behind the wall instead of on the track and pulled Justin Wilson's effort before it began.

"These test days are like gold and you can't waste them or fail to get everything you can out of them," said RuSPORT President Jeremy Dale. "We have our test sessions planned down to the lap, so we don't want to spend them on a day that starts late if we can avoid it."

Wilson and new teammate A.J. Allmendinger are both expected to test Saturday and Sunday along with 2004 series runner-up Junqueira. Ryan Hunter-Reay is slated for a day in the Rocketsports machine while Nelson Philippe runs the Mi-Jack/Conquest Lola Saturday along with Toyota Atlantic veteran Alex Figge. Philippe officially re-signed with Mi-Jack on Friday as team co-owner Eric Bachelart announced the return of the 18-year-old Frenchman. The team scored top-10 finishes in Las Vegas and Surfers Paradise last season after Philippe joined Justin Wilson in Mi-Jack/Conquest's two-car lineup in mid-season.

"I'm very pleased that we can keep on working together because we have a very good continuity where we know each other well," Bachelart said. "I think we've developed some good competency with Nelson and the team, and on top of that, we are still very early in the season, and we're going to start testing tomorrow in preparation for the first race in Long Beach."

Testing will resume Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at Sebring, with another session following on Sunday.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruce Jouanny , Justin Wilson , Matthew Halliday , Paul Newman , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Conquest Racing